Month: May 2003

Upgrade the Human out of Existence

Wanna place a little wager? Or, let’s just argue about this one for a moment…

What will be the demise of the species Homo sapiens?

An asteroid? Space invaders? Nuclear war? How about too many wired humans thanks to sweeping advancements in neurotechnology by the Year 2075?

Sir Martin Rees, a renowned cosmologist and professor at Cambridge University, bets that neurotechnology might be one route to our future extinction. In fact, Rees has made some strong predictions about humanity’s near future in general, which are presented in his recent book, Our Final Hour.

Of primary interest to our readers is Rees’ opinion that our species has survived for as long as we have because the fundamental way our bodies work has remained unchanged. Altering our function, say, by plugging into a computer chip interfaced directly with our brains, might lead to the end of our days as a species (at least in our current iteration). The real concern here is that we might get carried away with our potential future technological ability to “upgrade” our brains and bodies using artificial implants of mini-computer processors .

So, how many silicon chips does it take to make you more computer than human? Will our bodies adapt to the new technology if we progress with it slowly enough? These are just a slice of ethical and biological issues that will likely be debated as new developments occur. If the discussions… and likely protests… don’t happen any time soon, then you’ll be sure to see a fury of argument after we see someone walking down the street with something blinking in her skull.

What do you think? Post your comments and thoughts by clicking on the “What do you think” link below.

Read the article from the San Diego Union-Tribune ]

Turn on the Lights for Retinitis Pigmentosa Blindness

If you suffer from a specific form blindness called “retinitis pigmentosa” [ learn more, and more], which affects night and peripheral visions, then researchers from the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California have a deal for you!

Dr. James Weiland and his team have devised a successful electrical implant that stimulates healthy nerve cells in the retina of the eye in a calculated way to give the patient the sensation that light. The research device was designed to solve the specific vision problem of retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative condition that causes a person to gradually loose eye sight over time.

A video camera is directly connected to a 16 electrode chip that is interfaced directly into the retina. A special mini-computer analyzes the images from the camera, churns out some calculations, and controls a specific pattern of electrical stimulation to the neurons in the retina.

This implementation of a “bionic eye” does not actually reproduce the image of the surroundings onto the patient’s retina, but fills in some of the dark gaps of vision by stimulating nerve cells to fool the brain into believing there is actual light coming from a specific location.

Read the article from EE Times ]

[ Visit the academic website heading up this research. ]

Last updated April 5, 2020