Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wednesday Wonder: Meet Cyborg Kevin Warwick

Human enhancement is going to change life completely....
~ Kevin Warwick

Twelve years ago, Kevin Warwick, renowned Reading University professor of cybernetics, had a radio frequency identification device implanted in his arm. More recently, in a highly dangerous experiment, he's had 100 electrodes implanted in a nerve, enabling him to connect his nervous system to his computer. (Yes, it's true.) Warwick's wife also is "cybernetic", and the two of them have linked their nervous systems together electrically, allowing them to communicate telegraphically, nervous system to nervous system. Warwick believes that similarly linking the brain is a logical, "tremendously exciting" next step.

This is not the stuff of science fiction.

At Reading University, in England, the perfectly serious, highly educated, and esteemed Warwick conducts ground-breaking research in artificial intelligence, control, robotics, and biomedical engineering. He is one of only seven scientists to have been selected by the Institute of Physics for detailed case studies demonstrating the ethical issues the scientists have addressed in their work, the others being Galileo Galilei, Alfred Nobel, Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, and Joseph Rotblat. Warwick's series of five lectures, "The Rise of the Robots", given in 2000 at the invitation of the Royal Institution, are famous. Currently, he is collaborating on a project with an Oxford neurosurgeon to research the use of intelligent computer methods to predict the onset of tremors associated with Parkinson's disease and stop them via a deep-brain implant. He also leads a project seeking to "train" a cultured neural network using biological neurons to control a mobile robot platform. (See "Robot With a Rat Brain" and "The Thinking Man's Robot".)

Warwick is the author of I, Cyborg (University of Illinois Press, 2004), QI: The Quest for Intelligence (Piatkus Books, 2001), and March of the Machines: The Breakthrough in Artificial Intelligence (University of Illinois Press, 2004).

In this brief overview, Warwick talks about his studies and their implications:



Here, Warwick speaks more specifically about his experiments on himself and how he "became one with" his cyber technology. Brilliant scientist? Unquestionably. Fascinating work? Absolutely. Chilling? No doubt, especially given Warwick's belief in the possibility that our human-created technology could render us a "sub-species" in the future, dominated by machines.



Warwick works closely with a colleague, Daniela Cerqui, a social and cultural anthropologist, to investigate the social, ethical, and philosophical implications of his work. Cerqui's principal interests are the future of humankind as it relates to cybernetic technology, issues of computer-based "therapy" versus "enhancement", converging technologies, and other disciplines.

Resources

Kevin Warwick YouTube Videos

Kevin Warick on Vimeo: "The Cyborg Experiments" and "Becoming Cyborgs"(Interview)

I Robot? Case Study at Physics & Ethics Education Project (PEEP)

"I, Robot" at Flyp Magazine (Text)

Robotics 

BioEthics Education Project (BEEP)

"Building Gods" (Documentary)

BioCentre

Cybernetics

Instinctive Computing Lab (Warwick is a member of ICL's advisory board.)

Singularity Weblog (Warwick is named one of the "Top 10 Singularitarians of All Time".)

7 comments:

Cassandra Frear said...

What a great post. I watched both videos.

This was very uncomfortable, very disturbing. I kept having visions of Revelation and all of the ways someone could abuse this, if it develops as he predicts.

I do think he's probably over-stating things a bit. And he's likely playing on the emotions of viewers by suggesting a superior species and the idea that just being human will mean being on the outside of a superior life.

None of us want to be left on the outside generally.

But there are many dangers.

I can't see it happening as fast as he predicts.

thelmaz said...

Fascinating...and scary. I am sending a link to a friend who does research on Parkinson's.

Maureen said...

Warwick's work with Cerqui is important to note and worth exploring.

A. Jay Adler said...

Further along than I had any idea. Truly fascinating, Maureen.

brokenpenwriter said...

What an amazing article! I've often thought it wouldn't be long before we all had chips in our brains that told us where we were and how to get where we wanted to go - mini GPS chips - but this brings up super-cyber possibilities. In the sixties, I took LSD hoping to expand my mind and was (at first) delighted with the new perceptions and abilities to hear color or see music growing all over the walls. I see the next generation going for cybernetic stimulants rather than drugs and being able to experience far greater, more complex things. The possibilities for non-drug treatments, especially for brain-based problems such as depression, schizophrenia, Alzheimers, Parkinson's, Epilepsy, blindness, deafness - the list is endless and oh so exciting. Great article and thanks so much for writing about it.

Joyceann Wycoff said...

Maureen ... reading your blog is like implanting a chip in my brain ... I don't think your readers will be a "sub-species" as long as you're keeping us up-to-date.

S. Etole said...

Hadn't realized how close this was ... and what a scary thought in many ways.