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## Mind Over Machine331

Posted by michael
from the ultimate-laziness dept.
broKenfoLd writes "Monkeys moving robotic arms by manipulating a cursor on a computer screen, simply by thinking about it? Mice who cause their water tube to dispense some refreshing H2O just by wishing it? Signal processing and decoding has long been a dream of Matrix fans and lazy system administrators for years, and science is amazingly keeping up! Popular Science's Carl Zimmer has written a fascinating piece documenting recent progress in decoding brain signals and interpreting commands issued from thoughts alone. If you heard a single violin playing Beethoven's 5th, you would be able to tell what piece of music was being played even though the rest of the orchestra was not heard. In the same way, by monitoring a relatively few neurons, computers can recognize patterns and allow programming based on these patterns to say, know if a mouse is thinking about pushing his water lever. You can pass the time waiting for Matrix-style video games and motionless system adminstration/utilization by reading the full article."
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## Mind Over Machine

• #### Channel surfing (Score:5, Funny)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:21PM (#8409970)
But can it be used for channel surfing. That's the ultimate goal.
• #### Re:Channel surfing (Score:3, Interesting)

How do synapses encode the need for pr0n or cartoons? That's really the question.
• #### Re:Channel surfing (Score:3, Funny)

but the TV would be stuck on the p0rn channel. if you've got a wife, LOOK OUT!!
• #### Re:Channel surfing (Score:5, Funny)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:48PM (#8410278) Homepage
but the TV would be stuck on the p0rn channel. if you've got a wife, LOOK OUT!!

The trick is to marry someone who enjoys watching porn with you. It's not that hard; if I can do it, anyone can.
• #### Re:Channel surfing (Score:5, Funny)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @03:08PM (#8410472)
What's his name?
• #### Re:Channel surfing (Score:5, Funny)

<tanguyr+slashdot@gmail.com> on Friday February 27, 2004 @03:19PM (#8410598) Homepage
i'm thinking real hard of modding you +1 funny. let me know how it works out.
• #### Something's wrong (Score:4, Funny)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @05:06PM (#8411703)
It's not that hard

Then what's the point? Especially when married?
• #### Re:Channel surfing (Score:3, Funny)

Please. This is /. The only wives we have are from here. [realdoll.com]
• #### Re:Channel surfing (Score:2, Funny)

Here I though the idea was to make it possible to force 1000 monkeys to type more continuously.

We have got to see if Shakespear was better than 1000 monkeys don't we?
• #### Useful... (Score:2, Funny)

computers can recognize patterns and allow programming based on these patterns to say, know if a mouse is thinking about pushing his water lever.

Sounds like an old joke we shared around the IT dept about 20 years ago related to 'anticipatory paging', why not anticipatory programming. Hmm. Useful

This could save some of the

effort [umd.edu] of heavy lifting of that axe or driving that nail.

"after the nth time the process failed I gave the computer such a look that the software uninstalled itself, the harddrive cra

• #### Re:Useful... (Score:3, Funny)

why not anticipatory programming

THEN x = 3
IF x == uninitializedValue
• #### Re:Useful... (Score:3, Interesting)

You think it's funny, but that's how you actually program in a stack-based language (Forth, Postscript, ...).
• #### Just don't forget one thing! (Score:5, Funny)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:23PM (#8409989) Journal
Monsters, John! Monsters... from the id!
• #### This was on HDNet via DirectV (Score:4, Interesting)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:23PM (#8409990)
Saw this on HDNet... very very very cool..
I esp like the lady with the leads out of both sides of the back of her head....

She looked very Borg-Like.
• #### This could be bad... (Score:5, Funny)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:23PM (#8409991) Homepage

Can you imagine what might happen when a "hottie" walks though the office?

• #### Re:This could be bad... (Score:5, Interesting)

<jotaigna@yahoo.com> on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:29PM (#8410075) Homepage Journal
I remember a scene from "Macross Plus" Where two batteloids where flying and one of them was "neuro controlled". In a part, the neurocontrolled batteloid falls very fast and the other batteloid saves it from crushing into the ground, but as the "neuro" pilot regains control of his mecha, he wishes the other pilot was down(there is some grudge between pilots) and inmediately the mecha obeys the wish and wrecks the old batteloid!!. Be carful of what you wish, if you are hooked to a machine, you might get it!.
• #### Re:This could be bad... (Score:5, Funny)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:30PM (#8410081)
all the CD drives prematurely eject?
• #### Re:This could be bad... (Score:3, Funny)

Can you imagine what might happen when a "hottie" walks though the office?

• #### Re:This could be bad... (Score:3, Funny)

So that explains all that spam! Wait, I can't feel the wires. They must have used wireless devices! Help, I'm not sure if this is really me!
• #### Re:This could be bad... (Score:5, Funny)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:36PM (#8410155)

Interesting question. I love questions like this that we can debate, secure in the knowledge that we will never find out the real answer. Eventually we will find out what it is like to have this working, but we geeks will never find out what it is like to have a "hottie" walk though the office.

Congratulations, you have posed the perfect open ended question.

• #### Re:This could be bad... (Score:5, Funny)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:59PM (#8410380)
ahhh.... you obviously have never worked on the same floor as HR. ;)
• #### Re:This could be bad... (Score:5, Interesting)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:48PM (#8410279) Homepage Journal
Funny but if something did happen, the system would be a failure.

When you "think" about doing something, you are deciding via pros and cons, deciding outcome, looking at all options, recounting experience, true desire... on wether to do something or not. When you really decide to act, you act. That signal to act causes you to act. Thinking about acting is not acting. The final go ahead trigger to act is what matters. How else could you make a logical decision about anything? If you take out the thought process involved, we all would be living in a completely different world.

Consider the mouse and the bottle. If the mouse really wanted to get a drink, he would go over and get one. It's not like some force is holding him back and he keeps thinking about it but he just (slow superhero struggling voice) can't moooooooove.
• #### Re:This could be bad... (Score:3, Insightful)

Consider the mouse and the bottle. If the mouse really wanted to get a drink, he would go over and get one. It's not like some force is holding him back and he keeps thinking about it but he just (slow superhero struggling voice) can't moooooooove.

Hahaha. You're absolutely right.

Now, enough /. I've got things to do. ... rrrrhhhhhhaaaaaa... ok, well maybe just a little more.
• #### Re:This could be bad... (Score:3, Insightful)

well, yeah, but what's the difference between the signal that makes you want to move your arm and the signal that actually does it? the monkeys learn that they get the desired response by just sending the "intent to move arm" signal instead of the whole "activate arm muscles" signal.
• #### We have that already. (Score:5, Funny)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:23PM (#8409992)

I call it sleeping.

• #### Re:We have that already. (Score:3, Funny)

I call it working for a government agency. (Before you accuse me of trolling, I am working for a government agency.)
• #### Not such a big deal (Score:5, Funny)

by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:23PM (#8409993)
My water tube can dispense a refreshing H20-based substance just by wishing.
• #### Say it all with me now... (Score:5, Interesting)

<skennedy@nOspAm.tpno-co.org> on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:23PM (#8409995) Homepage
...this is some neat shit.

What other computer do you know can learn how to use foriegn devices without a driver disk? :)
• #### Re:Say it all with me now... (Score:5, Funny)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:30PM (#8410080)
The best part is that this computer can be mass produced with unskilled labor!
• #### umm.. not just yet. (Score:5, Interesting)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:24PM (#8410011) Homepage
the best of these kind of devices (devloped in nasa labs) can only do 95% accuracy. sure that might be fine for say playing a video game(unless its fast pace), but if you tried to walk with 95% accuracy, you'd be the but of more jokes then the "how do you get bob dole out of a tree, wave to him" jokes.

but over all its really cool that they are even able to do this at all.
• #### Re:umm.. not just yet. (Score:3, Insightful)

Even in a fast paced video game, how accurate are you with a mouse? Especially after all the sugar/caffeine? 95% is astounding.
• #### Re:umm.. not just yet. (Score:5, Funny)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:31PM (#8410100) Homepage Journal
"but if you tried to walk with 95% accuracy"

95% is better than me and my friends after a night out onthe town and we make it home ok. 95% is pretty good betting odds, too.
• #### Re:umm.. not just yet. (Score:2, Funny)

the best of these kind of devices (devloped in nasa labs) can only do 95% accuracy.

Well, so they claim, it's a robot that just appeared one day and keeps complaining about this horrible pain in all the diodes down its left side.

• #### Wow, Me Too! (Score:5, Funny)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:25PM (#8410024)

"Mice who cause their water tube to dispense some refreshing H2O just by wishing it?"

Uncanny! Just this morning I caused by "water tube" to dispense liquid just by wishing it too!

• #### Thinking... (Score:2, Interesting)

Printing out poster-sized Pr0n just by visualizing it?

Everybody... The day is now!!!

• #### Cell Phone (Score:5, Insightful)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:26PM (#8410030) Homepage
It would be interesting to have a cell-phone implant. You can call your friends and relatives, and always get them and know what they are thinking. And MAN, it would get annoying!

How about living in a way that our bodies were actually meant to. Exercising, working with our bodies, and communicating in person. Eventually we will just be sitting at home, in a lazy-boy with our brains plugged in to a network and all work from home. But, that would suck!

• #### Re:Cell Phone (Score:5, Interesting)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:36PM (#8410156) Journal
If you read 'The Light of Other Days' by Arthur C Clarke & Stephen Baxter you'll get a good insight into the possible consequences. While the book is centred around the idea that wormholes can be used to view anyone at any time, knowing what people think would have the same effect of first causing terrible unrest but eventually destroying barriers and allowing everyone to work together. It's a very interesting read and I feel that every day we get closer to that reality.
• #### Re:Cell Phone (Score:5, Interesting)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @04:55PM (#8411610) Homepage
While the book is centred around the idea that wormholes can be used to view anyone at any time, knowing what people think would have the same effect of first causing terrible unrest but eventually destroying barriers and allowing everyone to work together.

Every action being publicly known would cause you to think through everything you do. Every thought being public would cause you to fear thinking too much - about ideas that might be too controversial, sexual fantasies you might want to indulge in, feelings of hatred and hurt towards someone and so on. If your thoughts take you too far, perhaps you'll be an Enemy of the People(TM).

I don't think it'll be a better world. I think peer pressure and desire of conformity would mold people into the same shape, strangling creativity, initiative and independent thought. Not to mention what sects and such could do - brainwash initiates until they too are true believers.

The only way it would be a good idea is if you could directly point to an action it would cause, in order to prevent it from happening - much like Minority Report. But the film convieniently circumvents the issue since they see nothing but thoughts that do result in murder.

What if instead, they would have to monitor every thought, destroy all privacy, and couldn't tell if a perpetrator really would go through with it until the very last second? To intervene at the mere thought of committing a crime? That's the thing about thought crime - if you want it undone, it is undone. If you no longer want to kill the guy, well then it simply hasn't happened and won't happen. And the mere thought of it, I think everyone is guilty of - if even for just a flash.

Kjella
• #### Re:Cell Phone (Score:3, Insightful)

How about just implanting the ringer, so they don't bother the rest of us?
• #### Re:Cell Phone (Score:3, Funny)

Well, there is pre-speech thought and there is conceptual thought. Aside from sounding like a jumblefuck of absolute nonsense, if any conceptual thought slipped into your little mental cellphone, you might have some trouble on your hands.

"No mom, I haven't filled out the job application yet!fuckingshitfilledpieceofdeathuselesskillhatri d noneedjobgetweedsmoke"

"What the HELL was that you were thinking?!"

"Umm.. ahh, I think the electrodes are malfunctioning... wait... uhh, hold on, you're breaking u
• #### Re:Cell Phone (Score:5, Insightful)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @05:03PM (#8411680)
How about living in a way that our bodies were actually meant to. Exercising, working with our bodies, and communicating in person.

What about the idea that humans were "meant to" improve themselves technologically? Check out the book "Natural Born Cyborgs" [amazon.com] by Andy Clark -- he makes a pretty convincing argument that things like cellphone implants or robotic limbs aren't a bizarre aberration. Rather, they're incremental steps on the long road of technological self-enhancements that started the first time someone used the technology of writing to remember a piece of abstract information the unaided brain would have forgotten.

Even if you reject that argument, you have to figure out where to draw the line, and the answer isn't at all obvious. Were humans meant to see fine details on objects miles away? Toss out those binoculars. Were we meant to instantly kill other creatures without laying a finger on them? Forget your rough-hewn spearheads and boar traps, if not. Were we meant to survive heart failure? (Careful that your reasoning doesn't also conclude that gene therapy to live for 1000 years is fine too, if you want to be traditional but still humane.) To travel halfway around the globe in a matter of hours? To walk on the moon? The list goes on.

Humans are naturally unnatural. It's what makes us what we are.

• #### Re:Cell Phone (Score:3, Interesting)

Humans are naturally unnatural. It's what makes us what we are.

Granted. But one question is, will this continue to serve us well in future, or should we recognize that as our technology advances, we may need to become more careful about the kinds of unnatural things we do, and become dependent on? Might we end up self-modifying our species into something weaker, in some crucial respect, than what natural evolution gave us for free?

What the species as a whole does blindly may not be the right choice

• #### Re:Cell Phone (Score:3, Insightful)

How about living in a way that our bodies were actually meant to.

Meant to? Meant to by whom?
• #### But what if I didn't like my neighbour? (Score:5, Interesting)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:26PM (#8410041)
And I ran him over with my SCV?

"I didn't run him over!"
"Did you THINK about running him over?"

*long pause*

I didn't run him over!
• #### Ok, that should be SUV... (Score:2, Funny)

Not SCV...Damn Starcraft.
• #### ai (Score:2, Funny)

They're talking about reverse engineering the brain - it would be pretty sweet, but one hell of a task to filter through all the activity and figure out what signal meant what, combinations, etc. I'm sure an Altair is all you would need to reverse engineer my brain. You'd flip maybe ten switches, tops.

• #### Average Person (Score:3, Insightful)

So, the average person thinks of sex like every 4 seconds. The traffic on one of these brain networks would have more porn than the internet.
• #### I don't think it will ever be like in the movies (Score:5, Interesting)

by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:29PM (#8410073)
I mean, the rat can think about water, and get some water. But a rat's mind is way simpler.

Have you ever thought about suicide? Now imagine if when you thought about it a machine would come and kill you. Also I don't know about you, but I can't control my mind completely, sometimes I have thoughts that are completely unrelated with what I am doing... I really don't think I could trust a machine to make my thoughts come true, I'm sure in the future machines will be able to interpret the signals in your brain with a 99% precision, I just can't trust my own mind.
• #### Re:I don't think it will ever be like in the movie (Score:5, Funny)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:47PM (#8410269)
But a rat's mind is way simpler.

Allow me to introduce you to our management team.

KFG
• #### oh no (Score:5, Interesting)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:29PM (#8410074) Homepage Journal
If we can control the machines, can someone else come back through the machine an control me??? Could I be hacked??? Would I have to have a firewall in my head???
• #### got the show for you... (Score:3, Interesting)

It's called "Ghost in the Shell" and discusses issues like this (it's an anime BTW). In the case of the article, though, there isn't any feedback or direct neural stimulation, so now you couldn't be hacked.
• #### Shoulda seen this (Score:4, Informative)

by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:29PM (#8410076)

Brain-Computer Interfaces for Communication and Control [sfn.org] at the society for neuroscience annual meeting. There are already paralyzed people using this type of technology (electrode and even EEG(!)) on an experimental basis.

• #### A step to the singularity (Score:2, Interesting)

Now it's reading the brain. But eventually it will be reading a deeper part of the brain, and not needing the rest of it.
• #### Maybe in the future... (Score:5, Funny)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:30PM (#8410086)
...we'll be able to RTFA just by thinking about it!

But that would require thinking, and that hurts :(

• #### Re:Maybe in the future... (Score:2)

If we all were able to RTFA just with a thought not even yahoo could handle the /. effect.
• #### This journal.... (Score:5, Insightful)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:32PM (#8410108) Journal
Popular Science, ya gotta luv'em. I just wish the track record was a bit better, after reading about the nextgen dirigibles off and on for years I'm just a bit disapointed, that sounded like so much fun. Probe in my head? Less so.

Mod me down, off topic troll ;-) but still...
• #### What about the reverse...? (Score:5, Interesting)

<(moc.liamg) (ta) (grebrho.kcim)> on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:32PM (#8410109) Homepage Journal
This could have a potentially incredible impact on impaired and disabled people. Imagine if Stephen Hawking would be able to work at the same speed his mind seems to function at? However, what about Mind through Machine over Mind [go.com]? Put your helmet on, jack in, and remote control that fish - imagine the long-time deep-sea discoveries we could make - maybe even find a live Architeuthis [mus.pa.us]?
• #### I'm thinking... (Score:2, Funny)

1. I'm thinking to secure the server/firewall/whatever... Zzzzzt! done!

2. I'm thinking I deserve a raise. Zzzzt! agreed.

Idiot! 3. I'm thinking I'll have myself a raise. Zzzzt... done.

4. I'm thinking that the leggy busty blonde wants visit my bed tonite...Zzzzt!

5. I'm thinking I should you all leave think. Zzzzt!.. !@#RTA [NO CARRIER]

• #### This is all cool, but... (Score:5, Interesting)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:36PM (#8410159) Homepage
This does not answer how brain works at all :-) As a motor control neuroscientist by trade, I can tell that finding out what the brain actually doing has little to do with these neat things.

This is not to say that it's not important -- all kinds of prosthetic devices can be made to help people with disabled limbs or other parts of the motor control system -- so it's a great benefit to those people. The important thing is that these devices are still controlled by the human brain, and nobody has a good idea how.

The fact is, you can probably hook up whatever device to whatever portion of the brain (e.g. an artificial arm to you toenail brain area) and after some practice the subject will learn now to move it. So when they say "we don't see the brain as a mysterious organ anymore" they are telling you a bold-face lie.

The mystery would be demonstrated to be solved when we can build a computer with massively parallel and slow (up to 1kHz) elements that can match human performance in tasks like tracking, reaching, as well as learning those tasks.

So far, all the beatiful performance of the cool gadgets is accomplished by super-fast feedback and super-fast computing elements. Our neurons are ways slower, but they do much better. Therefore, the whole essense and mystery of the brain is how to connect 10^10 shitty elements into a great learnable machine. Algorythms and parallelism are still the mystery of the brain, even if the popular science magazines claim otherwise :-)
• #### Re:This is all cool, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

<<moc.yggorhp> <ta> <3todhsals>> on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:49PM (#8410288) Homepage
The fact is, you can probably hook up whatever device to whatever portion of the brain (e.g. an artificial arm to you toenail brain area) and after some practice the subject will learn now to move it. So when they say "we don't see the brain as a mysterious organ anymore" they are telling you a bold-face lie.

Does the mouse get water by thinking about water, or by thinking something completely different that happens to trigger the machine? Once he figures it out, he'll do it again when he's thirsty.
• #### Mind Wide Open (Score:5, Informative)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:36PM (#8410160)
NPR has an interesting interview with Steven Johnson, author of Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life [npr.org] . One segment talks about manipulating on-screen animations with Alpha brainwaves, to retrain people with ADD how to focus.

• #### Thought Power (Score:2, Interesting)

Still waiting for the implantable math co-processor, ideally with optically interfaced plotting/visualization capability ...

Imagine the possibilities.
• #### I Wish (Score:2, Funny)

Singing to self: "I wish I was an Oscar Myers wiener"

P O O F !
• #### Controlling your computer by thought: could be bad (Score:4, Interesting)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:41PM (#8410211)
It could be bad to be able to control your computer by thinking. Just imagine if you were sitting at your thought controlled computer when a "friend" comes up and asks, "hey, what's the command to delete everything recursively without confirmation?"

Then, before you know it, you've thought, "\rm -r *"

Okay, I saw something like this (minus the thought part) happen in real life once upon a time. A friend and I were just talking about people accidentally typing "\rm -r *" in the lab when suddenly, someone using the Sun boxes yelled "oh shit!" because he absentmindedly typed what we said.

• #### Re:Controlling your computer by thought: could be (Score:3, Interesting)

Better yet, what happens when you feel like destroying the computer. Will it self destruct, or act in self defense?
• #### I don't understand something... (Score:5, Insightful)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:45PM (#8410251)
They talk about using this for people with disabilities. This would be great for sure but
they say in the article that they need to "train" the computer beforehand (no pun intended)
before it can ... interpret though.

My question, which was not answered in the article, is: Are every brain emmitting the same signals for the same action
or do they need to "train" the program for every new user (monkey)? I would think that every individual have a somewhat
unique "brain signature" and if it is the case, how can a totally impaired person train a computer to use an artificial arm or
leg or whatever if anyway he isn't able to move a "joystick"?

Can the computer associated anything as an input to compare with the brain activity?
Could (let's say ) S. Hawking program the system by blowing in a tube harder or smoother for example?

Am I clear? ;-)
• #### As his cat goes up in flames... (Score:3, Funny)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:51PM (#8410307)
As his cat goes up in flames...

No!!! God dammit!!! I thought a BUD LIGHT!!!
• #### Mana From Heaven. (Score:3, Interesting)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:52PM (#8410314) Homepage
This sort of reminds me of Ursula K. Le Guin's story, "The Lathe of Heaven". For the uninitiated, "The Lathe of Heaven" takes place in Portland, Oregon in the year 2002. Its main character, an insignificant working class man named George Orr (Bruce Davison who appears in "The X-Men" movie), is plagued by 'effective dreaming', where his dreams literally come true.
• #### I'm thinking of.... (Score:5, Funny)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:52PM (#8410315) Journal
FIRST POST! FIRST POST!

(Damn, didn't work)

Natalie Portman in my cube.

(Nope, still doesn't work)

I want to be overworked and overpaid, but still have time to surf slashdot from work.

(Woohoo! It works!)
• #### Coding dream (Score:5, Interesting)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:54PM (#8410328) Homepage
I'm sure most coders out there have dreamed of this ability for years. No more clunky keyboard interface to slow you down.

Typos would be a thing of the past. Imagine scanning though some source and noticing that you assigned 100 to a var rather than 10, before you can even refocus your eye on the line the value has been changed.

Grep would be a thing of the past! Need to change all the instances of a function name? Think it and its done.

I want to be the lawnmower man!
• #### i am a bipedal broadcast station (Score:3, Interesting)

<moc.liamg' ta' `etirwerw'> on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:55PM (#8410336) Journal
Just another bipedal bag of mineral salts and trace elements capable of complex EMF broadcasting at low-range, subtle super-conduction at room temperature, and high-voltage carpet-capacitance pitching in my 2 coppers here...

Look developers, just get speech recognition running already, willya? If what your software does to my luminous eloquence is any example of the current state of interface tech, that thinking-cap UI is going to lead to some pretty psychedelic dyslexic synaesthesia in photoshop once it gets that olfactory plugin I've been waiting for...

• #### long term failure should be expected ? (Score:3, Interesting)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:59PM (#8410387)
computers can recognize patterns and allow programming based on these patterns to say, know if a mouse is thinking about pushing his water lever.
what would happen to the mouse if, at long term, she knows that by thinking about pushing the lever she don't have to push that lever anymore, the computer can't find that previous pattern because the mice have forgotten the use of the lever. thus reprogramming is re-required. seems like an infinite loop ...
• #### the exciting part (Score:5, Insightful)

by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27, 2004 @03:13PM (#8410509)
The real exciting part isn't about the machine learning what the brain is doing, but rather the brain learning how the machine works. Near the end of the article, he talks about a cluster of neurons that grew in the monkey brains after the implants, and would fire only when the implants were active. The monkey's brain, in effect, sensed a new presence and adapted to it within minutes of its arrival.

If you've ever tried learning an activity that instinctive reflexes like skateboarding or ice skating or even playing the piano, you realize that no matter how much instruction someone gives you, at some point you feel like once you've done it enough, you just "get it". It's the whole muscle memory thing, how your brain encounters something new and just adapts, learning exactly which neurons to fire at the right moments to get the desired affect. Seeing neuron's grow and cluster especially for the robot arm is indicative that the monkey's brain can assimilate the arm and treat it as a natural extension as opposed to a external tool with an awkward interface. In geekspeak, it's like a kernel that, on detecting a new device, can probe it, learn the API, and build its own device driver automatically, without ever knowing anything other than that it's something on the other end of a bus.

Extending that line of thought, who's to say that if the signal processing and classification algorithms advanced far enough to classify even our thoughts, our brains wouldn't be able to instinctively learn how the mind-readers worked and retaliate in return?
• #### A squid stole my spaceship. (Score:4, Interesting)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @04:05PM (#8411154) Journal

What this really opens up is the possibility of training animals to operate machinery. Imagine taking an aquatic animal (such as a dolphin) and using it (or its brain) as the central component in a spaceship autopilot.

By stimulating various parts of the brain (including pleasure centres), one could train it to respond to your input in the way you want - it already has the hardware to deal with three dimensional maneuvering, timing and calculating trajectories and intercepts.

This was used in a novel called Space, in which GM Squid controlled a space probe. In the novel, the squid became smart enough to do a runner with it.I would look up the author's name for you all, but try typing "Science Fiction" and "Space" into Google and see what happens ;)
• #### Is it time for ... ClippyXP? (Score:5, Funny)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @03:26PM (#8410692) Homepage Journal
"You are thinking of typing a letter ... "

Pleeeeeeease don't let MS get their hands on this one, mister!

• #### I thong ot well be cool! (Score:5, Funny)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @03:36PM (#8410818) Homepage
I can't waid two get this of my home computer. I hoop is works is goat as me speak recondition program!

-
• #### Where is all this going... (Score:3, Informative)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @03:44PM (#8410905)
Reading the article it occurred to me that in the future jobs may require that an employee get brain implants in order to perform some job related task or interact with future computer systems where manual user interface interaction is no longer practical. Would such systems separate workers into a group who are willing to submit to such an invasive operation and those who would refuse implants. I wonder how long we have before implant specifications start to appear on job descriptions and resumes?

The article did touch on the ethics of placing such implants into healthy soldiers, but ethics and morals that would prohibit such activity tend to be very fluid.

Non-invasive techniques may one day be developed for interacting with machines through thought, but this technology is probably much further off than taking the short-cut of hardwiring the brain.
• #### Chicken or Egg? (Score:4, Insightful)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @04:04PM (#8411144)
Does the water come when mice are thinking they want water...OR

have they learned that every time they think about death/sex/food the water comes?

• #### I was interested until I saw "Popular ..." (Score:4, Insightful)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @04:20PM (#8411310) Homepage
The same people who brought you "Nuclear, sorry, Nucular Cars," "Flying Cars," and what ever else doesn't require much imagination and even less knowledge of math and physics.

Entreprenurial posers.

Still it sells magazines.
• #### In my job, I practice with this everyday (Score:3, Funny)

by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27, 2004 @05:06PM (#8411715)

Yip.
• #### What am I thinking? (Score:3, Insightful)

<baelzharon@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Friday February 27, 2004 @05:31PM (#8411897)
What about the thoughts you "really" don't need everyone else to know hear though. Somehow it needs to determine what to transmit and what not to. Even if it is controlled by you thinking, 'say this or that', what if you're thinking of saying it but don't really want to. This is getting confusing. You could imagine thinking about talking and having it projected into a room 2,000 miles away," says Craig Henriquez. "I don't see that that will be a problem. It's very, very possible."
• #### Wrong focus? (Score:3, Insightful)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @05:35PM (#8411930) Homepage
Every time I read something about machines interpreting brain signals, how we might have identified the brain pattern which means "raise my arm," I have to wonder if we're going about this in the fundamentally wrong way.

Why design an arm that has to figure out which brain signals mean "lift up?" Why not design an arm that will respond to brain signals in a number of ways, and one of them is by lifting up? We've each got the best learning device known to our species in our heads, why not use that skill? We all learned to use our original arms through trial and error (albeit when there was a lot less clutter in our heads), I've got the sneaking suspicion that we'd figure out how to make a mechanical one do whatever we want.

It would be no different than learning to swim, or ride a bike, or swing a golf club.

Then all you need is a way to get signals from the brain to the device, and you're set.

• #### Online gaming! Just imagine! (Score:4, Interesting)

on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:56PM (#8412655) Journal
Imagine going head-to-head (hehe) with someone in a game where you both put on your "mind caps" and you battle it out... and the winner is simply the guy who can think the fastest. Forget moving a goofy little thumbstick around and pressing buttons. Imagine the feeling of playing some FPS game and moving around in the game just by sheer willpower. Wow. With good enough graphics, you could probably forget that it's a game pretty easily.

Cool, but a little scary, too.

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