Tag Archives: evolution

The Next Generation

Washingtonpost.com has a story about what biotechnology means to being post-human. While the article gets a little dorky at times, and the comic-book references somewhat over-the-top, it manages to penetrate well past the surface of what most articles would do. (And come on, admit it, how many of us have daydreamed well into our twenties about doing the kinds of things only comic book heros can do?) They reference a lot of good material, talk to John Kurzweil and Max Moore, and use the excellent Science Magazine issue on this subject for a lot of their material.

Method of server-side biofeedback system for mechanically evolving human-computer interfaces

Many different forms of biofeedback devices, each with it’s own software, could be attached to a USB port on any networked device that supports USB. The output from the devices are sent real time in raw (compressed and encrypted) form to a server side application, probably written in C++. The installation of the new device involves:

  1. acquiring the biofeedback device,
  2. connecting it to the network device,
    identifying the muscle groups, electrode locations, or any other biofeedback characteristics,

  3. initiating the translational learning, and
  4. interacting in regular teaching sessions within an individual account.

The first signal from the biofeedback device to the server is it’s identification. An installation file is selected and executed on the basis of this identification. The installation file is run on the server side to set up the new device and initiate the translation learning. Translation learning begins as the translation software (Referred to as “Empath”), requests that the user perform certain tasks, concurrently storing the streaming output of the biofeedback device. A new database table is generated for each device installed within your account to your Empath. Correlations are evaluated between biofeedback streams and the tasks being performed in order to identify the appropriate computer response to realtime biofeedback streams.

Each user teaches the application to respond to biofeedback by providing the computer with adequate samples of data. When there is any transalation that does not meet an acceptable standard of certainty, the user is prompted for additional samples that specify the correct translation; this acts to teach the Empath. The teaching system can be disabled, and the certainty standards can be edited.

Device manufacturer would provide a biofeedback hardware device that would stream realtime to a USB plug, and a very small definition file (probably an XML file consisting of identification, and translation variables… possibly specifying the tasks to be requested in initial teaching sessions, as well as other fields that can grow into a public standard interface protocol). From the user account, a list of supported devices could be made available to display the definition files available.

This method would provide an interface between the human and the computer in which the computer and the human communicate through any type of USB biofeedback device. These devices would connect by UBS cable to a network device which is in turn communicating with a server (Probably by thin client streaming software that takes USB input and sets up VPN, compression, and encryption).

As many users teach their Empath to translate their biofeedback, aggregate information will be extracted for increasing the rate of learning for each user. Correlations across very large populations will help to initiate the teaching process for new individuals; this way the Empath can use the rest of the population as a starting place from which to earn the new individually optimized translation.

Implications for computing: computers will be learn to understand your gestures if you can stream your gestures into the USB port. Server side “ASP” processing allows for very thin client applications and extensible device support. Interface standard publication enables mass market public and commercial development of biofeedback devices with USB output.

Implications for humans: We turn the corner such that computers learn to understand what humans mean, rather than humans being forced to learn new (and highly limited) communications skills, like typing.

The Changing Face of Evolution

Genetic codes in our cells provide the system upon which information is stored and algorithms are performed to determine our perceptions. Similarly, software codes provide the system upon which information is stored and algorithms are performed, effectively doing the same thing. Major industries will focus on the processes of evolving these systems (and the interface that enables communications between them). It is purely our life, and perception of it, that defines our demands, and so these two areas of business will form the dominant industries of the next century.

Computer interfaces will become natural extensions of our senses, integrated with device controls that allow us to interact with our environment and each other using and broadcasting information. This will increase the effectiveness, efficiency, and diversity of communication as well as giving us control over network devices, systems, and resources.

The evolution of human evolution

Advancements in technology and medical sciences have changed the basis on which evolutionary dominance is measured. It used to be that more physical and social characteristics were dominant when labor was more physical and relationship communities were more stable. Abstract mental fitness (Especially in areas of mathematics, process dynamics, technology adoption, and forecasting) has become a much more important factor in society. At the same time, other factors that are less well considered are having an important impact on human propagation. For example, free-time and moral comfort lead to increased average birth rates.

War has discriminatly killed and ended the genetic branch of those who fit the military standards of physical and mental fitness. The result is that the desirable characteristics that the military has identified as valuable in the event of conflict are relatively diminished in the world population. Characteristics such as good vision, strong muscles, dexterity, endurance, focus, ability to learn languages, spatial intuition, coordination, and communication skills are less common than they naturally would be in people. That’s not to say that the military or society had any choice when recruiting our finest to protect our way of life, but it should be in our minds when we make decisions about how we fight. Is it worth harming the evolutionary process of humanity when we could, albeit for additional financial cost, fight our battles with a far higher degree of safety for the innocent? Human evolution has been reversed by this process, and the genetic pool that perpetuates humanity has been damaged by the wars we could not keep ourselves from fighting.

Evolving systems of life and electronics

We marvel at the power and potential of digital computing, mechanical tools, and computer interfaces, but is it any wonder compared to the analogous systems that have evolved naturally with biological rather than electronic mechanisms? Each of us is an independent system–with our own processor, frame, muscle structures for output, and sensory organs for input. Humans thankfully evolve because each of us is different, and different from the bodies that came before us. Further, our likelihood for passing on characteristics to future generations is related to our viability and the functions of our biological systems. We are biological machines.

But biology as we know it is limited by physical constraints on our senses, memory, and life-spans. It may even be the case that biological imagination and creativity are limited by the inherent constraints of neurological chemistry, however, I don’t imagine this is the case 🙂 I cannot see 3000 miles away without a camera and transmission, and I cannot remember the URL of the 473rd web page I ever viewed without electronic logs.

It seems clear that humans are developing electronic and mechanical tools to move beyond the constraints of our biological selves. We use electronics to extend our senses, empower our expressiveness, assist our memory, automate our processing, and improve our life-span. It seems inevitable that the evolutions of biological and electronic systems will begin to merge in order to take advantage of the best characteristics of each. To reach such a state, the interface between these systems needs to be improved. We are working on it already, and it is a ways off, but simply a matter of time. We are truly fortunate that the basic input and output signals of our biological nervous system are electrical.