Friday, September 14, 2012

H+ and a Singularity that is near...and monkeys!





I am fortunate to have great friends.

While that is enough in and of itself, my great friends also happen to contribute post ideas from time to time.  Tonight, I will be featuring two stories suggested to me, both of them coincidentally on the subject of transhumanism.

Dr. Rich sent me this link to the H+ web series.  I had first heard of this series in the news from Comic-Con 2011.  Unfortunately, its debut date of August 2012 slipped my mind and I am now catching up on webisodes.

Produced by Bryan Singer, the series explores a transhuman future wherein over a third of the world's population has a nanocomputer called H+ cybernetically implanted in their brain.  This allows them to interface with the Internet 24 hours a day without the need of any external hardware.  The first episode opens with the announcement of this technological innovation, causing an uproar from sectors of society that deem such advancements as somehow ghoulish.  As if to prove those voices correct, a computer virus attacks the H+ network, causing mass havoc.  Thus the series' ad line: "Humanity goes offline." I have not watched the entire series, but there appear to be hints that the biotech corporation that invented the H+ may themselves be the source of the virus.

 I'm waiting to make up my mind on this web series.  The logic behind the "crash" is still coming off as a bit stilted for my tastes.  That and I'm not sure I like the "propaganda" feel of the whole "technology will destroy us all" anti-transhumanist slant.  But it's entertainment and it wouldn't be very interesting without conflict, so a transhuman utopia probably wouldn't make for great web TV.  We'll see.


In related news, Neutron Frog sent me the following discovery from The Times: Brain implant improves thinking in monkeys.
This neural prosthesis has demonstrated the ability sharpen decision making skills in the brains of monkeys.  While a monkey's brain is more similar to a human's than say, a mouse's, it's still going to be a long haul before a piece of cybernetics can handle the complex circuitry of the human brain.  Nevertheless, this discovery brings hope in that we may one day have permanent solutions from those who suffer from dementia or the after effects of a stroke.

Yet Neutron Frog accurately pointed out that the highlight of the article was this passage:

"To test the device, the team relayed this “correct” signal into the monkeys’ brains when they were in the middle of choosing a possible picture match, and it improved their performance by about 10 percent.
The researchers then impaired the monkeys’ performance deliberately, by dosing them with cocaine. Their scores promptly fell by 20 percent.
“But when you turn on the stimulator, they don’t make those errors; in fact, they do a little better than normal,” said Robert E. Hampson of Wake Forest, a study author.




Furthering underscoring the point, ol' NF breaks it down for us this way:

"Imagining something like the mentats in Dune.  To solve really tough problems, to really kick your brain into high gear, the solution is a bit of cocaine and a judicious application of electricity. =) "

While I'm not certain that Herbert's mentats had that in mind, I can admit to being so frantic for an answer to a personal conundrum that I might've snorted the coke and taken the jolt just to find an answer.


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