Monday, October 03, 2005

The Brain Popper (or Brain Stack)

Imagine an operating system of human processing.

We are nearing a point in brain computer interface technology where in the next few decades we will see cosmetic brain augmentation technology. Today, BCI technology is to the point where we can feed visual and auditory information into the brain; retinal and auditory implants, while not common are becoming more common among the deaf as the camera technology is not yet low power enough to enable full retinal implants (currently requires cameras on glasses). These technologies are evidence of "input" technology, but more recently we have seen a rise in so called "output" technologies; humans are now being implanted with simple controllers that are activated by the motor and premotor cortices, which is to say, one can imagine moving a muscle and a prosthetic limb motor (or a computer mouse cursor) will respond. Currently, in order to read information out of a human brain, we must put a bundle of wires that each basically sense on the order of 10 neurons each, and in order to feed information into the brain, groups of neurons must similarly be stimulated by many wires. This limitation of information flow into and out of the brain has not allowed large portions of the brain to be "read" from or "written" to, but the implications of this ability will definately drive the research in this direction. The Brain Popper is one such implicated application.

The Brain Popper is a device that reads a critically large portion of the processing state of a person's mind state. This includes short term memory that one must "warm up" whenever they approach a new type of task, even if they are adept at this particular task. For example, this type of short term memory would include "riding a bike" or "driving a car" or "flying a kite" or "driving a remote control car" or "sorting bills" or "cooking lasagne" or "watching a TV show" or "reading email" any other task that one can imagine that takes skill and that one "mentally warms up" as they continue to perform the skill -- anything that can be interrupted and that takes some time to get back "into the groove". The idea in computer science terms is this: The Brain Popper keeps a stack of mental states that can be read and written to the working memory of an individual. The Brain Popper in common sense terms allows one to save one's mental state while performing a task, and then perform another task and then "Pop!" return to the first task with the push of a button without "warming up" to the first task again. Long gone is the era of distractions. If you ever get "into the groove" just hit the "Save" button on your Brain Popper and then you just return to that mental state whenever you want by the touch of a button. (In actuality, the Brain Popper only saves short term memory, so any changes in long term memory between saves and restores would not be accounted for, so saved states of mind would probably only work on the order of weeks or would need to be refreshed every week or so depending on how often the long term memory regarding the task changes).

Implications for "group think" and social processing strategies are only on the horizon. Feeding experiences from those on the forefront of human experience (frontlines of battlefields, outer space, old age, young age, or in general any experience that is difficult to communicate through language will also be an exciting brain read/write applcation.

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