Saturday, May 10, 2014

walking by myself down avenues that reek of time to kill

The capability of 3D printing has taken another leap forward, this time into low-cost, home brain scans. Through a combination of software from GitHub, the controller board and 3D headset rig from OpenBCI, with possible additions from the Arduino system for power and interfacing, the entire thing (assuming you have a 3D printer already) will set you back between anywhere between three and six hundred, depending on whatever you already have for home electronics design. Which is a vast reduction from the tens of thousands for a commercially-available brain-scan set-up.

In other brain-hacking news, DARPA wants to develop a "black-box" implant for soldiers who've suffered brain damage, that can be remotely triggered to stimulate memories. On that link, it's being described as a helpful way to keep soldiers with brain damage awake and aware, which sounds laudable. And the potential commercial and medical uses of such adaptive technology could be very good for brain injury cases. But I'm paranoid enough to be suspicious of potential alternate motives...like, remote-controlled soldiers, systemically fed overriding signals directly into the brain to do...well, whatever DARPA and the Pentagon wants, one would assume.

Do the potential medical uses outweigh the potential mind-control ones? I don't know. Morality gets iffy on the edge.

Paired with this, the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (apparently that's a thing) released a paper earlier this year detailing ways to create and manage "warfighters", or chemically and physiologically enhanced supersoldiers. Obvious comparisons to Captain America and the supersoldier program from the comics come to mind, and admittedly, between the Avengers movie and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. show, supersoldiers would be in the forefront of at least some think tanks' research lines.

But there's a difference between theory and application, and it's important to remember that the IHMC works with DARPA, for many of their projects. Within a decade, we could have active "warfighters" on the battlefield. Is this a good thing?

Keep in mind, also, that both the US Navy and DARPA researchers have requested grant funds to finish developing tracking tattoos for soldiers. Prototypes of such devices already exist, that will track stress levels, skin responses, and the like, but most of these are wearable items--armbands, wristbands, et cetera. These would be a fine network of implanted electronic sensors under the skin, with tattooed coding or design atop that could be scanned for further information. Let me say this again, because it's vaguely important--this isn't theory; they're seeking completion funds. This will be happening at some point.

From Laughing Squid comes some literary horror--in this instance, artist Andrea Mastrovito's diorama paper installations. Why is this horrifying? Because, even though we have extraordinarily detailed, photorealistic color printers, she still destroyed over two thousand books to make her art.

Two thousand. My soul shudders.

And Vihart has an absolutely excellent eleven-minute video on the state of net neutrality in the US at present. If you're in the US, follow the links given underneath the video to air your concerns to the FCC. It's very important to do this calmly, responsibly, but clearly, in the hopes that public input will sway them to change commercial ISP definitions from information carriers to common carriers.

If you're not in the US, there's still a ton of tasty information below the video--everything from term definitions to other videos on current net neutrality concerns, plus links to a lot of court case rulings for the growing monopoly that is cable in the US.

That's all. You can return to your day, already in progress.

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