Saturday, 27 February 2010
“There is no way I want to stay a mere human.”
Dr Kevin Warwick
Dr Kevin Warwick is a British scientist and professor of cybernetics at the University of Reading. He left school at 16 but went back to University at the age of 22. He has been doing experiments on cybernetics and robotics. He is the first person (outside science fiction) to actually become a cyborg. A cyborg is a word for a cybernetic organism (part organic, part machine). He is interested in how artificial intelligence can be used to improve humanity and feels that humans are limited in their sense perceptions.
At the risk to his own life, Dr Warwick in Project Cyborg 1.0 (1998) got an implant embedded in his arm. It had a signal unique to his individual requirements and Dr Warwick was able to operate doors, heaters and computers without lifting a finger. This has implications for people who have disabilities. In another experiment Project Cyborg 2.0 (2002), he got a different implant put in. This interfaced with his nervous system and meant that he could control things such as the movements of a robotic arm through thought alone. This is even more amazing when you consider that the robotic arm was on the other side of the world to him. He could also feel pressure that was put on the arm.
Kevin Warwick is at heart an adventurer. He believes that humans need to evolve. By using the technology of silicon chips he feels we can enhance our senses. For example we could be able to see in X-ray, infra-red or up to 8 dimensions. He thinks in future we will not need to communicate through speech but simply through thought alone. He feels speech is a slow and prone to error method of communication. Kevin Warwick sees technology as being more advanced than human beings and that artificial intelligence could take over decisions and eventually be in control of humans because computers can make better and faster decisions. Science fiction points to the dangers of a situation where this might happen and that inspires Dr Warwick to research cybernetics. He wants to be part of a new humanity, what he would see as a better and more evolved humanity. One day he thinks that humans will choose to get upgraded and have enhanced abilities through implants. People can choose whether or not to become a cyborg, but if they didn’t they would be to the new human cyborgs what chimpanzees are to us now.
In Project Cyborg 2.0, Dr Warwick’s wife got a similar, although not as sophisticated chip put into her central nervous system. They were trying to find out whether they could speak to each other through thoughts alone, perhaps by using the internet. They will be looking at questions such as how will the brain adapt to unfamiliar information coming in through the nervous system.
People and animals are already starting to get microchips implanted, for example dogs and children whose parents are over protective and scared of abduction (particularly after the Madeline McCann case). It is thought that in the future these chips will be able to hold all sorts of information such as bank details, medical details and can be updated when necessary.
There are all sorts of ethical questions and Warwick (or Captain Cyborg as the papers call him) works closely with a woman called Danniella Cerqui who is an expert on ethics. It raises the whole question of what it might mean to be human and conscious.
When Dr Warwick heard John Searle’s view that a shoe is not conscious therefore a computer cannot be conscious, he responded by saying “that by the same sort of analogy though, a cabbage is not conscious therefore a human cannot be conscious.”
So what might it be like in the future? Would you get an enhancement to see more clearly, hear better or lift heavier things? Will the world be even more divided into haves and have-nots as this technology may not be cheap? What if we have to have chips in order to get our money? Does having a single implant make you a cyborg? What if an enemy power could use this technology against us by causing death to us through malfunctioning chips?
Progress can never really be halted and people will always use technology to their own ends whether we may judge it good or bad. It looks like this technology will be the way of the future.
The House of a thousand Mirrors
Long ago in a small, far away village, there was place known as the House of 1000 Mirrors. A small, happy little dog learned of this place and decided to visit. When he arrived, he bounced happily up the stairs to the doorway of the house. He looked through the doorway with his ears lifted high and his tail wagging as fast as it could. To his great surprise, he found himself staring at 1000 other happy little dogs with their tails wagging just as fast as his. He smiled a great smile, and was answered with 1000 great smiles just as warm and friendly. As he left the House, he thought to himself, "This is a wonderful place. I will come back and visit it often."
In this same village, another little dog, who was not quite as happy as the first one, decided to visit the house. He slowly climbed the stairs and hung his head low as he looked into the door. When he saw the 1000 unfriendly looking dogs staring back at him, he growled at them and was horrified to see 1000 little dogs growling back at him. As he left, he thought to himself, "That is a horrible place, and I will never go back there again."
All the faces in the world are mirrors. What kind of reflections do you see in the faces of the people you meet?
Wednesday, 24 February 2010
Let’s get to the point, or points. Acupressure Mats take a bit of getting used to. From the moment you lie back on the 6,000 sharp plastic needles on the mat, you know there are forces at work, mainly downward ones as your skin sinks onto these needles specifically designed to target your acupressure points around the body. If you ever wondered what it must be like for the Indian Yogis to lay on a bed of nails, now is your chance to find out.
Ian Gee, who is supplying the Acupressure Mats through his web based company Shakti.ie tells us a bit more of the history of why the acupressure mats are such a huge hit throughout the world.
“The acupressure mats are proving to be a popular choice for people wanting to try a safe, natural alternative to traditional medication. As well as being widely used medicinally in India, Chinese scriptures also recorded the original bed of nails as a treatment to balance the mind and body thousands of years ago. The modern equivalent we supply comes from modern tests in Russia where comprehensive results were produced from hospital patients and prison inmates. The results from these tests proved that the mats had huge health benefits, the doctors were amazed.”
We asked Ian if he uses the mat himself. “ I do, every day. It was really prickly at first but like a lot of things, if stick with it the rewards are there. I find that I can actually fall asleep on the mat now and wake up feeling very chilled out. I feel much more relaxed and energised throughout the day.”
Ian continues to tell us more about how the mat works “The study in Russia showed the bed of nails decreased inflammation, strengthened the immune system, regenerated tissues, increased metabolism and lowered stress levels and has a positive effect on depression. When you lie on the acupressure mat the spikes stimulate energies within your body, triggering a sense of well being.”
“The mat works by acupressure, which is based on the idea that the body has a meridian system, probably best likened to the nervous system. The increased blood flow and release of Endorphins around the body makes the mats effective.”
Does Ian see a big market for the acupressure mats? “Yes, definitely.” And concludes. “Research has shown that the mats can help people with sporting injuries, back pain, neck pain, sciatica, insomnia, digestive problems, poor circulation, fatigue, excess weight, cellulite and all sorts of allergies, so there is a large potential market. I also think the mat gives us something very special every day. Twenty minutes lying down and doing nothing. That’s priceless.”
To celebrate the launching of the new site Ian is offering a FREE acupressure Mat to one lucky winner of a prize draw on the website. Check it out HERE .
The offer ends at the end of March 10.....
Sunday, 21 February 2010
The Teacher and the Taught
A young teacher from an industrial city in the north of England had accepted a temporary job teaching a class of four-year-olds out in one of the most isolated, rural parts of north Wales. One of her first lessons involved teaching the letter S so she held up a big colour photograph of a sheep and said: "Now, who can tell me what this is?"
There was no answer. Twenty blank and wordless faces looked back at her. "Come on, who can tell me what this is?" she exclaimed, tapping the photograph determinedly, unable to believe that the children were quite so ignorant. The 20 faces became apprehensive and even fearful as she continued to question them with mounting frustration.
Eventually, one brave soul put up a tiny, reluctant hand. "Yes!" she cried, waving the snap aloft. "Tell me what you think this is!" "Please, Miss," said the boy warily. "Is it a three-year-old Border Leicester?"
Saturday, 13 February 2010
Testing for gossip
In ancient Greece, Socrates was reputed to hold knowledge in high esteem. One day an acquaintance met the great philosopher and said, “Do you know what I just heard about your friend?”
“Hold on a minute,” Socrates replied. “Before telling me anything I’d like you to pass a little test. It’s called the Triple Filter Test.”
“That’s right,” Socrates continued. “Before you talk to me about my friend, it might be a good idea to take a moment and filter what you’re going to say. That’s why I call it the triple filter test. The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?”
“No,” the man said, “Actually I just heard about it and ...”
“All right,” said Socrates. “So you don’t really know if it’s true or not. Now let’s try the second filter, the filter of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my friend something good?”
“No, on the contrary…”
“So,” Socrates continued, “you want to tell me something bad about him, but you’re not certain it’s true. You may still pass the test though, because there’s one filter left: the filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my friend going to be useful to me?”
“No, not really …”
“Well,” concluded Socrates, “if what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?”
Sunday, 7 February 2010
The Barber Shop
A man went to a barbershop to have his hair cut and his beard trimmed. As the barber began to work, they began to have a good conversation and talked about many things. Eventually they touched on the subject of God. The barber said: "I don't believe that God exists."
"Why do you say that?" asked the customer.
"Well, you just have to go out in the street to realise that God doesn't exist. Tell me, if God exists, would there be so many sick people? Would there be abandoned children? If God existed, there would be neither suffering nor pain. I can't imagine a loving God who would allow all of these things."
The customer thought for a moment, but didn't respond because he didn't want to start an argument. The barber finished his job and the customer left the shop. Just after he left the barbershop, he saw a man in the street with long, stringy, dirty hair and an untrimmed beard. He looked dirty and unkempt. The customer turned back and entered the barber shop again and he said to the barber: "You know what? Barbers do not exist."
"How can you say that?" asked the surprised barber. "I am here, and I am a barber. And I just worked on you!"
"No!" the customer exclaimed. "Barbers don't exist because if they did, there would be no people with dirty long hair and untrimmed beards, like that man outside.
"Ah, but barbers DO exist! That's what happens when people do not come to me."
"Exactly!" affirmed the customer. "That's the point! God, too, DOES exist! Because people do not look to God for help."