October 22, 2004

My Name Is Frahnk-en-steen

The cyborgs are coming!

Cyborgs I:

Boing Boing: Prosthetic memory hardware: Wired News has an interesting article about the quest to create an artificial brain prosthesis. University of Southern California professor Theodore W. Berger, whose work we've previously blogged, is making headway on an implantable chip that functions like the hippocampus. That's the part of the brain that creates memories for storage. "The team expects it will take two to three years to develop the mathematical models for the hippocampus of a live, active rat and translate them onto a microchip, and seven or eight years for a monkey. They hope to apply this approach to clinical applications within 10 years. If everything goes well, they anticipate seeing an artificial human hippocampus, potentially usable for a variety of clinical disorders, in 15 years."...

Cyborgs II:

Boing Boing: Living brain in a jar: A scientist at the University of Florida has cultured 25,000 living rat neurons into an in vitro brain capable of controlling flight simulator software.

“It’s essentially a dish with 60 electrodes arranged in a grid at the bottom,” (bioengineer Thomas) DeMarse said. “Over that we put the living cortical neurons from rats, which rapidly begin to reconnect themselves, forming a living neural network – a brain.”

The brain and the simulator establish a two-way connection, similar to how neurons receive and interpret signals from each other to control our bodies. By observing how the nerve cells interact with the simulator, scientists can decode how a neural network establishes connections and begins to compute, DeMarse said.

Posted by DeLong at October 22, 2004 04:20 PM | TrackBack
Comments

I think my friend Marvin Minsky has the best remark on this topic, "Who says our descendants have to be made out of meat?"

-dlj.

Posted by: David Lloyd-Jones at October 22, 2004 04:51 PM

Sixty rat neurons sitting in a dish is probably a better pilot than the president.

Posted by: AP at October 22, 2004 05:44 PM

This is very good news indeed, because I hope to contribute to the General Unified Field (and Stream) Theory of Everything, but I have trouble with math!

Was it a Samuel R. Delaney novel wherein people could buy huge wing implants like flesh-angels, and fly?

Posted by: Lee A. at October 22, 2004 06:13 PM

I recommend hunting down a copy of the classic radio horror drama, "Donovan's Brain," about a brain researcher who keeps a mogul's brain alive after the patient has otherwise died.

Just in time for Halloween!

Posted by: Social democrat at October 22, 2004 07:29 PM

"If everything goes well, they anticipate seeing an artificial human hippocampus, potentially usable for a variety of clinical disorders, in 15 years."

Simply not believeable. Unless they mean a *very* crude interface with the rest of the brain.

Posted by: liberal at October 23, 2004 03:52 AM

Google is my prosthetic memory assist device.

Posted by: Rees Jones-Jones at October 23, 2004 04:39 AM

it was in a science fiction story by cordwainer smith that i first encountered the idea of a bionic brain - as i recall, the spaceship's brain had been taken from a mouse

Posted by: mistah charley at October 23, 2004 06:57 AM

This story reminds me of the "cold fusion" story. Really, 25000 rat cells fly a plane.

From the old SNL skit, "Billy Crystal singing, Come' on"

Posted by: ed_finnerty at October 23, 2004 08:20 AM

"If everything goes well, they anticipate seeing an artificial human hippocampus, potentially usable for a variety of clinical disorders, in 15 years."

I have a clinical disorder. My memory is not nearly as good as von Neumann's was, and gets worse every year. I have some related disorders also, as e.g. a comparison of our relative math skills instantly shows. Researchers, get with it.

Posted by: Jonathan Goldberg at October 23, 2004 10:47 AM

Planes are not that difficult to fly these days. An American or British 7x7 will arrive at its destination 50 feet off the deck and with its wheels equidistant from the center line of the runway without human intervention. If there were no pilot or co-pilot on board, any stew on board could just throttle it down a little and then slam the thrust reversers to bring it to a safe halt.

7x7's belonging to other nations have been very slightly detuned, (a rule laid down on security groundsby the brilliant aeronautical engineer Ken Mabuchi when he was auditor of strategic systems) but they'll still get you into sight of the runway.

The only reasons we need highly skilled and well-paid pilots is for those occasional moments of terror when somebody in the system has done something very stupid.

-dlj.

Posted by: David Lloyd-Jones at October 23, 2004 11:59 AM

"Simply not believeable. Unless they mean a *very* crude interface with the rest of the brain."

- Liberal: you may very well be correct, but you should elaborate on your reasons, rather than simply declaring "hogwash !"

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