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Pirates: Cyborgs of the Atlantic

The Sci-Fi Channel just aired a one-hour special called Stargate: True Science. It featured a lengthy segment about the Replicators with interviews and discussion of the futurist Kevin Warwick. Dr. Warwick is a cybernetics and robotics researcher best known for his Project Cyborg, a human augmentation project that currently centers around implants and direct neural interfaces.

Project Cyborg and Osanwe-Kenta

Wikipedia reports that:
Probably the most famous piece of research undertaken by Professor Warwick (aka Captain Cyborg) is the set of experiments known as Project Cyborg, in which he had a chip implanted into his arm, with the aim of "becoming a cyborg".

The first stage of this research, which began on August 24, 1998, involved a simple RFID transmitter being implanted beneath Professor Warwick's skin, and used to control doors, lights, heaters, and other computer-controlled devices based on his proximity. The main purpose of this experiment was to test the limits of what the body would accept, and how easy it would be to receive a meaningful signal from the chip.

The second stage involved a far more complex chip which was implanted on March 14, 2002, and which interfaced directly into Professor Warwick's nervous system. The electrode array inserted contained around 100 electrodes, of which 25 could be accessed at any one time, whereas the median nerve which it monitored carries many times that number of signals. The experiment proved successful, and the signal produced was detailed enough that a robot arm developed by Warwick's colleague, Dr Peter Kyberd, was able to mimic the actions of Professor Warwick's own arm.

A highly publicised extension to the experiment, in which a simpler array was implanted into Professor Warwick's wife—with the aim of creating some form of telepathy or empathy using the Internet to communicate the signal from afar—was also moderately successful, although the implant seems to have been less successful at stimulating signals than at measuring them. Finally, the effect of the implant on Professor Warwick's hand function was measured using the Southampton Hand Assessment Procedure (SHAP). It was feared that directly interfacing with the nervous system might cause some form of damage or interference, but no measurable effect was found.

Warwick and the RFID privacy controversy
Professor Warwick and his colleagues claim that the Project Cyborg research could lead to new medical tools for treating patients with damage to the nervous system, as well opening the way for the more ambitious enhancements Professor Warwick advocates. Critics, however, suggest that the experiment was little more than a publicity stunt. Warwick himself asserts that his controversial work is important because it directly tests the boundaries of what is known about the human ability to integrate with computerised systems.

An additional controversy arose in August 2002, shortly after the Soham murders, when Professor Warwick reportedly offered to implant a tracking device into an 11-year-old girl as an anti-abduction measure. The plan produced a mixed reaction, including ethical concerns from a number of children's societies, with support from many concerned parents. As a result, the idea did not go ahead, and it is not clear to what extent it was hype, speculation, or a genuine proposal.

Steve Mann

Also, one relevant story I was surprised not to see referred to in the Stargate special, or linked to from the article on Dr. Warwick, was that of Steve Mann, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Toronto. Dr. Mann alleges that he suffered bleeding injuries from having implants ripped out at St. John's International Airport in Newfoundland, Canada while preparing to board an Air Canada flight to Toronto. (I'd misremembered Mann to masteralida as Warwick.)



( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 20th, 2006 08:12 am (UTC)
Kevin Warwick
I studied Kevin Warwicks work a couple of years ago and it was very interesting (though I did not understand it all!) I had not problems with the privacy side of things, mainly having a chip stuck in my arm. Perhaps his idea for an anti-abduction measure would appear extreme to some, so why not make it voluntary for some, stick it on a bracelet that can track in real time. I'd make it compulsory though for convicted sex criminals and killers to have them implanted (if we have to let them out of jail).
I'll have to look out for the programme again as I find the cyborg an interesting idea, 'how much of a cyborg are you?' Could be a LJ quiz methinks.
Jul. 20th, 2006 08:40 pm (UTC)
You do know that science has come out with rudamentary neural interfaces for computers right?
Jul. 20th, 2006 08:51 pm (UTC)
Neural interfaces
Yes, I do. I'm mainly talking about implants, which currently have greater feedback potential (for two-way HCI).

Jul. 22nd, 2006 12:49 am (UTC)
Re: Neural interfaces
Man, it's going to be a pain for us FPS users; it's bad enough that three year olds can make swiss cheese out of us but now we'll get slaughtered by cripples. Imagine going against someone who can always do a head-shot with 100% accuracy....even if you're a mile away...or ten.........
Jul. 24th, 2006 08:49 am (UTC)
Just think of it as a visit from Professor X
Or the PsiCorps, if you're a B5 fan.

But seriously, have you seen Dasher?

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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