Human-Computer Symbiosis

Human-Computer Symbiosis

Human-Computer Symbiosis

The hope is that, in not too many years, human brains and computing machines will be coupled together very tightly, and that the resulting partnership will think as no human brain has ever thought and process data in a way not approached by the information-handling machines we know today

Licklider 1960

Manuel and Sandra are talking about the following article:
Do Brain Implants Change Your Identity?

In this post :

    1. Darlene Alderson from Pexels
    2. Kevin Ku from Pexels 

In this post the dialogue is realised by an interaction of virtual characters, for more information please check the page “Virtual characters

Sandra

There are various means and goals when measuring and stimulating the brain, it’s not easy to say stuff in general about this.

Today 11:39  

Sandra

It’s not like you install a USB hub in the brain and then hook up your laptop

Today 11:39  

Manuel

No, I get that, sure. And it seems to be ethically controversial too 😅

Today 11:39  

Sandra

Absolutely! Even before staring human trials for a new device, we need to think things through.

Today 11:40  

Manuel

What are some of the questions that come up?

Today 11:41   

Sandra

For more general research: what could it be used for? And how could it be abused?

Today 11:42   

Sandra

For specific devices: what happens if it does or doesn’t work? And how will people react to their implant?

Today 11:42   

Manuel

Could you elaborate on that last one?

Today 11:43   

Sandra

Sure. It is always a risk that people reject the implant, in the sense that it feels weird to them

Today 11:44   

Sandra

Having a computer “control” what you do feels creepy, even if it allows you to walk or talk again.

Today 11:44   

Manuel

I think I understand: the implanted device feels alien, and it’s not like a walking stick you can leave behind

Today 11:46  

Sandra

Nope: it is part of you now, more like the hip replacement that you cannot take out.

Today 11:47   

Sandra

So we need to educate and guide people in understanding the procedure and functionality

Today 11:47   

Manuel

But still: if it helps you live a more normal life, why would there be a problem. 🤔

Today 11:48  

Sandra

Well, Deep Brain Stimulation was developed as treatment for Parkinson’s at first

Today 11:49   

Manuel

It reduces the tremors?

Today 11:50   

Sandra

Yes, but it is also being used for mental health issues, like depression or OCD.

Today 11:50   

Sandra

People feel that it interferes with their autonomy: who am I anymore?

Today 11:51   

Manuel

I see, the risk is that it takes away agency and decision making form the patient.

Today 11:51   

Sandra

Exactly, but it gets worse!                                                               

Today 11:52   

… Continue to read the conversation between Manuel and Sandra  on Saturday 9th October…

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Robot See, Robot Do

Robot See, Robot Do

I do think that robots deserve rights and there are research projects being carried out today that are looking at robot laws. African-American slaves were given rights when slavery was abolished and they became part of society. Think of animals too – none of them had rights in the beginning but now animal rights are the norm. So if robots can interact with humans, they too should be given rights.

read more
Coppélia 2.0

Coppélia 2.0

He clasped the beautiful Olympia, and with her flew through the dance…
He thought that his dancing was usually correct as to time, but the peculiarly steady rhythm with which Olympia moved, and which often put him completely out, soon showed him that his time was most defective

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Brainwaves

Brainwaves

Brainwaves

I was driven mostly by practical questions, indeed also by the question whether we could, just as is the case with the electrocardiogram for pathologies of the heart, find an objective research method for pathological changes in the activities of the central nervous system, which would be of the greatest significance for diagnostics

Berger 1929

Manuel and Sandra are talking about the following article:
The History of Neuroimaging Techniques

In this post the dialogue is realised by an interaction of virtual characters, for more information please check the page “Virtual characters

Sandra

So the category of Implantable Medical Devices is quite large and diverse

Today 11:39  

Sandra

The most common ones are probably lens implants for cataracts   

Today 11:39  

Manuel

Oh, I hadn’t thought of those! My grandma had that!

Today 11:39  

Sandra

Yep, very common, and knee replacements are more common than hip replacements

Today 11:40  

Manuel

OK, sure, but stuff like this is … an old hat, right? We’ve been doing this for a long time?

Today 11:41   

Sandra

Absolutely, knee replacements started in the 19th century already

Today 11:42   

Manuel

Now what about the new and controversial devices? You mentioned working on a brain implant?

Today 11:44   

Sandra

That’s right, a neurostimulator for chronic back pain after spinal injury

Today 11:42   

Manuel

Cool! So what does that do exactly? 😁

Today 11:46  

Sandra

After a spinal injury a lot of people develop chronic pain and our device basically intercepts the pain signals

Today 11:42   

Manuel

So we can detect and block such specific signals?

Today 11:46  

Sandra

There are various techniques to measure brain activity, like an EEG or fMRI

Today 11:48   

Sandra

An EEG is an “electroencephalogram”: measuring electrical activity on the scalp that corresponds to activity in the brain.

Today 11:42   

Sandra

fMRI is “Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging”, measuring brain activity by measuring blood flow in the brain

Today 11:42   

Manuel

OK, I did know about those. These are non-invasive, without surgery, right?

Today 11:48  

Sandra

Right, but with surgery we can also put electrodes directly in the brain

Today 11:49   

Manuel

Like Deep Brain Stimulation? 😵‍

Today 11:50   

Sandra

Well, there is a difference between measuring and stimulating, but basically yes.

Today 11:50   

Manuel

And then you can hook the electrodes up to a computer?

Today 11:51   

Sandra

Not always, but, yes, that is a possibility                                                

Today 11:51   

Manuel

That’s the kind of implantable device I was talking about: Brain-Computer Interfaces!

Today 11:51   

… Continue to read the conversation between Manuel and Sandra  on Saturday 2nd October…

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Total posts on the argument

Robot See, Robot Do

Robot See, Robot Do

I do think that robots deserve rights and there are research projects being carried out today that are looking at robot laws. African-American slaves were given rights when slavery was abolished and they became part of society. Think of animals too – none of them had rights in the beginning but now animal rights are the norm. So if robots can interact with humans, they too should be given rights.

read more
Coppélia 2.0

Coppélia 2.0

He clasped the beautiful Olympia, and with her flew through the dance…
He thought that his dancing was usually correct as to time, but the peculiarly steady rhythm with which Olympia moved, and which often put him completely out, soon showed him that his time was most defective

read more

Hips of Steel

Hips of Steel

Hips of Steel

 Gentlemen, we can rebuild him.

We have the technology.
We have the capability to make the word’s first bionic man

Steve Austin will be that man

Better than he was before. Better…stronger…faster.

The Six Million Dollar Man

Manuel and Sandra are talking about the following article:
Can a computer fool you into thinking it is human?

In this post :

    1. Video by Pressmaster from Pexels
    2. Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

In this post the dialogue is realised by an interaction of virtual characters, for more information please check the page “Virtual characters

Manuel

Hi Sandra, would you be up for a quick interview?

Today 11:38   

Sandra

Hi Manuel, sure. What about?                                                           

Today 11:39  

Manuel

Medical technology I have to review, and I’d like to see a doctor about that …

Today 11:39  

Sandra

Ha! Well, I actually am that kind of doctor!                                      

Today 11:40  

Manuel

Excellent! My questions aren’t about the technology per sè though

Today 11:41   

Sandra

Good, because bolts and screws aren’t really my thing                

Today 11:42   

Manuel

I wish this stuff was made of bolts and screws … I constantly have to look stuff up

Today 11:44   

Sandra

So are you talking about assistive devices? Healthcare robots?

Today 11:45   

Manuel

Not this time, no this is about Implantable Medical Devices, like neuroprosthetics 😁

Today 11:46  

Sandra

Wow, yes those are really interesting 🤔🤔                                         

Today 11:46   

Manuel

Do you have any experience with IMD’s?

Today 11:47   

Sandra

I do, a few years back I collaborated in a research project on a brain implant

Today 11:48   

Manuel

Great! Tell me everything 😊😊

Today 11:48  

Sandra

Actually, implantable medical devices are very common nowadays

Today 11:49   

Manuel

They are? 😵‍

Today 11:50   

Sandra

Sure, it’s not just about cutting-edge neural implants, also your aunt’s new hip is an IMD

Today 11:50   

Manuel

… my aunt actually did get hip replacement surgery last year …!

Today 11:51   

Sandra

There you go, and my father in law has a pacemaker: also an IMD

Today 11:51   

Manuel

You’re absolutely right of course, but the public wants to know about the new shiny stuff

Today 11:51   

Sandra

We’ll get there, never fear!                                                                      

Today 11:52   

… Continue to read the conversation between Manuel and Sandra  on Saturday 25th September…

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (4 votes, average: 4.25 out of 5)
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Total posts on the argument

Robot See, Robot Do

Robot See, Robot Do

I do think that robots deserve rights and there are research projects being carried out today that are looking at robot laws. African-American slaves were given rights when slavery was abolished and they became part of society. Think of animals too – none of them had rights in the beginning but now animal rights are the norm. So if robots can interact with humans, they too should be given rights.

read more
Coppélia 2.0

Coppélia 2.0

He clasped the beautiful Olympia, and with her flew through the dance…
He thought that his dancing was usually correct as to time, but the peculiarly steady rhythm with which Olympia moved, and which often put him completely out, soon showed him that his time was most defective

read more

The Ethical Pursuit

The Ethical Pursuit

The Ethical Pursuit

New discoveries, new technologies, new social arrangements …

Shorter and shorter relational durations

New level of adaptability

Introduction

Every year in various scientific and technological fields awards are given out for breakthrough discoveries. Every year new disruptive inventions and products are announced in breathless press releases. Innovation and application have become watchwords and metrics in the quality assessment of scientific research and grant applications. In other words: things change. On the other hands, our values and principles seem to require some sort of stability. We would hardly say that someone values something if they are prepared to let go of all their principles at the drop of a hat:

“Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.” (Groucho Marx).

It is clear that on this view of technology and ethics (as a science of principles and values) there is a serious mismatch. Judging tomorrows tools by the standards of yesteryear doesn’t really work. Hence, the continuing need for applied ethics, for translating general principles into concrete, specific, applicable policies. Now, after each breakthrough discovery or disruptive technology there follows a discussion of societal impact, ethical concerns, and policymaking. There are two risks in this process: that we reinvent the ethical wheel every time we reinvent the technical wheel, crafting ad hoc policies and guidelines for every new piece of equipment, and that the ethical discussion lags further and further behind the progress of science.

{

Future Shock

New discoveries, new technologies, new social arrangements in the external world erupt into our lives in the form of increased turnover rates

‘shorter and shorter relational durations’

They force a faster and faster pace of daily life

They demand a new level of adaptability.

And they set the stage for that potentially devastating social illness

Alvin Toffler

The massive injection of speed and novelty into the fabric of society will force us not merely to cope more rapidly with familiar situations, events and moral dilemmas, but to cope at a progressively faster rate with situations that are, for us, decidedly unfamiliar, “first-time” situations, strange, irregular, unpredictable

(Toffler, Future Shock)

Ethics, societal acceptance, political decision making, etc. lag behind, because the process is time consuming if done right. It is perhaps tedious, but it needs to be thorough. Consultations need to be held with experts, multiple drafts seeking feedback from politics, industry, science, and the public. However, at the same time also multiple countries, businesses, research agencies, consultancies, etc. are engaging in the same process, drafting their own sets of guidelines. And while these processes are ongoing, of course a number of new breakthroughs are made, providing new cases to be covered, new unforeseen applications, etc. Not to mention that even if it is all done by the book and turns out as intended, this is often just about one specific set of technologies and cannot cover all possible interactions with other breakthroughs. For instance, big data, machine learning, AI seem to have endless applications: in surveillance as well as art history, in protein folding as well as automating court rulings, and so on. It can combine with technological breakthroughs in other fields: in medicine, robotics, machine translation, etc. Do we need separate policies and guidelines for each and every one of those myriad applications? Can we expect everything to be covered by some general principles set in stone for all time? Or will these be inevitably broken by the next innovation?

“Value turnover is now faster than ever before in history. While in the past a man growing up in a society could expect that its public value system would remain largely unchanged in his lifetime, no such assumption is warranted today.”

(Toffler, Future Shock)

This reactive approach risks to always lag behind and become dispersive and inconsistent. Being often forced to focus on the shiniest new thing by public or politics, ethical reflection ends up focusing on narrow case studies, which cannot always be easily translated to the broader field situations. The literature on the topic speaks about a “vacuum” between ethics and technology.
This vacuum is not only conceptual, but also a power vacuum: who is responsible for filling it?
Who has the authority to fill it?
Which role should be played by all the various actors involved?
Should politics impose regulations, businesses self-regulate, or will users and consumers end up as guinea pigs?

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