The Human-Human Interface

The Neural Interface Moves Deeper

Personal Infrastructure

As neuroscience identifies more and more neural correlates of movement and thought, prosthetic interconnection seems to follow on more closely.

“For years, researchers have dreamed of devising prosthetic devices that paralyzed people could operate by brain signals alone. So far, patients’ brain waves (electroencephalogram recordings) have controlled simple computer programs, and robots and cursors have moved under the guidance of brain cells that dictate motion (Science, 24 January 2003, p. 496). Until now, however, nobody has succeeded in tapping the messages of higher-order neurons involved in planning and motivation for potential use in prosthetics. On page 258, neurophysiologists Richard Andersen and Sam Musallam of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and their colleagues report eavesdropping on neurons in a cognitive brain area involved in planning–but not executing–future arm movements.”

Meanwhile, the Center for Consciousness Studies coordinates the ongoing attempts to nail down the neural correlates of consciousness, assuming that is they can define what consciousness is. The contention of some is that neural prosthetics tackly the “easy problem” – what neurons are associated with what activities. The “hard problem” is, where in the brain is located “the feeling of what happens”.

Neural Prosthetics Update

Personal Infrastructure

A selection of prosthetics sites. These prosthetics are controlled entirely by connection to the residual limb muscles of individuals who have undergone amputation. The prosthetic limbs use a combination of hydraulics, processors, and sensors to transmit information back up through the limb muscles to enable walking, running and other activities. (I love the applet on the Hanger site showing a man dancing, quite stylishly thank you, with a prosthetic leg.) These individuals in turn are the most likely to explore the frontier of neural prosthetics when that technology is ready to, if you will, take the next step.

Liberating Technologies:

Hanger Orthopedic Group

C-Leg microprocessor-controlled knee

For the human element, here’s the personal site of Cameron Clapp, a triple-amputee after being hit by a train. I challenge you not to be inspired.

the Neurophere Subconscious

The World Right Now

I always liked this feature from the Webcrawler web site. It used to be called the Webcrawler Subsconscious, which fits the Neurosphere profile more precisely. (If you look at the “unfiltered” version, it’s even more primal.)

“Ever wonder what the rest of the world is searching for?”

United Nations Discovers the Neurosphere

Wholeness and Virtual Communities

In my day job, I work periodically with the International Telecommunications Union, a standards-setting body under the United Nations umbrella. Their new report, The Internet of Things, describes the kind of trends and challenges I’ve been covering in my book and in this Blog – “ubiquitous network society” may or may not be a synonym for neurosphere. Like the European Union, they are struggling to adapt old legal and regulatory structures to rapidly evolving technologies.

“We are heading towards what can be termed a “ubiquitous network society”, one in which networks and networked devices are omnipresent. …Technological standardization in most areas is still in its infancy, or remains fragmented. But perhaps one of the most important challenges is convincing users to adopt emerging technologies like RFID. Concerns over privacy and data protection are widespread, particularly as sensors and smart tags can track a user’s movements, habits and preferences on a perpetual basis. But whatever the concern, one thing remains clear: scientific and technological advances in these fields continue to move ahead at breakneck speed. It is only through awareness of such advances, and the challenges they present, that we can reap the future benefits of a fair, user-centric and global Internet of Things.”


The World Right Now

At the other end of the demographic spectrum from Wyoming, New York City’s 311 government information hotline is not only a disseminator of information, but has learning feedback built in. Checkout the performance statistics for types of inquiries – the government affairs equivalent of Google Zeitgeist.

“Third, the government learns as much as the callers do. That’s the radical idea at the heart of the service: Every question or problem carries its own kind of data. Menchini’s system tracks all that information; just as the heralded CompStat system mapped problem crime areas with new precision, 311 automatically records the location of each incoming service request in a huge database that feeds info throughout New York City’s government. Think of 311 as a kind of massively distributed extension of the city’s perceptual systems, harnessing millions of ordinary eyes on the street to detect emerging problems or report unmet needs – like those worries about unrefrigerated insulin. (Bloomberg himself is notorious for calling in to report potholes.)”


Personal Infrastructure

Wireless broadband is possible in Laramie Wyoming, without centralized national scale planning. Hmm

LARIAT.NET is a local Internet service provider based in Laramie, Wyoming. Founded in 1993 as a community network and relaunched as a private ISP in 2003, we were the world’s first wireless broadband provider and have more than 11 years of wireless experience. We remain an innovator in wireless technology and Internet security, and are the only Internet provider serving Laramie which is locally owned, locally operated, locally managed, and not a franchise or chain…Get out of the house, dormitory, or office and enjoy a beverage, food, and/or the company of others while you work.

Financing the Third World Neurosphere

Network Infrastructure for the Neurosphere

If I may be politically incorrect, this effort is going nowhere. The Digital Solidarity Fund is a drop in the bucket, and likely to remain so. The Bush administiration is not going to spend significant money here when their posture in the U.S. is that the private market will provide for all needs. The $100 computer pushed by MIT is a better way to get at the problem. The Digital Divide is a situation tailor made for high risk financing – third world markets are high risk, but the potential scale and upside is enormous. This looks a lot to me like where the cable television industry was 30 years ago. Michael Milken went to jail, but now we all have more digital television channels than we can stand. Watch the Network Infrastructure section of this site for my forthcoming paper on Capital Formation for Closing the Digital Divide.

“An African-led initiative that will use high-speed internet connections to treat AIDS patients in Burundi and Burkina Faso offers inspiration for those working to bridge the world’s digital divide…The Digital Solidarity Fund has just $6.4 million in cash and pledges, pocket change compared with the $2.25 billion the United States spends a year on E-rate grants to schools and libraries in the nation’s rural and low-income areas. Of the countries contributing to the world fund, all but one — France — are African.,1294,69561,00.html

Interfaces to the World

The World Right Now

Neurosphere periodically finds nuggets of interest from the email tracker FUTUREdition of The Arlington Institute. The Institute also has developed an explicitly noospheric “Vital Signs Monitor”, in conjunction with the Center for Human Emergence, as a tracking tool for business or governmental use. A near-term project for the Neurosphere Institute is to develop a better interface to The World Right Now as a consumer product.

“Vital Signs Monitors are the early critical warning indicators for understanding and communicating about the dynamics that work in complex social systems to generate levels of destructive violence and conflict, or act to create waves of peace and tranquility. We will be scanning for the Vital Signs that announce the onset of either conflict or peace, and reveal the contours of the deeper tectonic-like social plates that are rumbling beneath the surface.”

Be the Grid

Wholeness and Virtual Communities

Grid computing available at retail!

“The Sun Grid can accept any self-contained, 32-bit application that is pre-compiled for Solaris 10 OS on the x86 architecture. (Java binaries will work as well.) Upload your apps for deployment on the Sun Grid and for execution. Input files may be cataloged and stored for repeat usage.”

Grid computing like other innovations starts to see business model enablers come along. To the extent free markets are the perfect vehicle for expression of human needs, this growing grid entity will have the necessary circulatory systems to keep it going. Here’s one enabler from H-P, and a fully formed market mechanism for buying “computons” from Sun.

“Tycoon is a market-based system for managing compute resources in distributed clusters like PlanetLab, the Grid, or a Utility Data Center (UDC). The basic idea is that users have a limited supply of credits. Consuming users pay providing users to use computer resource. Users who provide resources can, in turn, spend their earnings to use resources later.”

Whenever someone uses the term “solution”, I reach for my wallet. But I suppose this is the way the grid infrastructure is adapted to specific uses.

“Kontiki offers the industry’s most secure and scalable digital media delivery solution, enabling enterprises and content providers to securely publish, deliver and track digital media to employees, partners and customers.”

Wholeness, Ancient and Modern

Wholeness and Virtual Communities

Pir Vilayet Inayat Khan died this year. Pir Vilayet brought the teachings of Sufism, the contemplative, mystical branch of Islam, to the West. He founded the Omega Institute, a “holistic” learning center whose name comes from Teilhard’s concept of the Omega Point. He talked about the institute resurrecting the aims of the ancient library of Alexandria, the compendium of all known knowledge at the time. Years ago, Internet pioneers had the idea that the Interent had the potential to be a mechanism for such an ambitious project of wholeness. Today advocates of online encyclodpedia Wikipedia harbor similar ambitions.

“Omega will be a global center for the development of human potential.”