SECOND DECADE SYMBIONICS AND BEYOND
Journal of Evolution and Technology Vol.
Glenn F. Cartwright
B. A. Finkelstein
Department of Educational and
on a paper presented at the
Ninth General Assembly
of the World Future Society,
Washington DC, July
©2002 - Glenn F.
Reviewing progress in the last decade towards the symbionic mind --
a sophisticated, direct, neural interface between the brain and the
environment -- we speculate that in the future the symbionic mind
will used to channel wireless, virtual reality information directly
to the cortex, bypassing conventional sensory channels. The result
will be participation in virtual reality experiences in cyberspace
creating seamless, alternate realities indistinguishable from
reality. Such eventualities will inevitably lead to innovative
altered states, fresh conscious perceptions, new experiences of the
sublime, and the possible merging of human realities into a single
consciousness, necessitating a redefinition of individuality. More
exciting is the possibility of real-time feedback from the cortex
through the symbionic mind to constantly tailor virtual reality
experiences. Might the functions of our existing nervous system
eventually be superseded by the symbionic mind, changing what it
means to be human and creating a virtual "guardian angel" to guide
us though the new millennium?
SECOND DECADE SYMBIONICS AND BEYOND
First Global Conference on the Future held in Toronto in July, 1980
the idea of Symbionic Minds was first presented. In the original
paper (Cartwright, 1980a) and in subsequent papers (Cartwright,
1980b; 1983a; 1988, 1989), intelligence amplifiers were visualized;
connected to human brains, capable of independent, intelligent
action and existing symbiotically with us.
sophisticated devices would be significantly more powerful than
present day computers and would be wired directly or indirectly to
the cortex for both input and output. These brain prostheses would
amplify and strengthen all the intellectual abilities we now take
for granted as comprising intelligent human activity. They would be
called "symbionic" minds (from the words symbiotic + bionic) because
of the close, interdependent relationships that would almost
certainly exist between them and us, and because they will make us,
to some degree, bionic.
the design and development of such brain-computer interfaces that
comprises the new science of "symbionics". Originally conceived as
comprising four independent research areas, the concept now embraces
the following seven:
brain pacemakers or cerebellar stimulators,
Figure 1 - The
Puzzle of Symbionics
first of these is the development of "emgors" (electromyogram
sensors) which are now used to enable amputees to control
artificial limbs in an almost natural manner. The aim of this
research is to create artificial limbs that respond to the will of
the patient by finding in the stump of the severed limb the brain's
own natural impulse called the myoelectric signal or electromyogram
(EMG), improving it through amplification or other means, and using
it to control electromechanical devices in the prosthetic appliance.
An obvious use would be to have it control an artificial limb called
a myoelectric arm (Glass, 1986).
Remarkable progress in engineering has evolved the crude, prosthetic
arm into a fully functional artificial replacement. The Leverhume
Oxford Southampton Hand has been developed at the Oxford Orthopaedic
Engineering Centre as a myoelectric replacement arm for amputees. It
is designed to allow the patient adaptive control over hand
functions in a prosthesis that resembles the natural model. The
Southampton hand can perform many independent movements with a small
amount of user input (Kyberd & Chappell, 1994).
Commercial companies are distributing myoelectric arms such as the
Utah Arm from Motion Control Inc. This myoelectric arm has a
near-natural look, feel, and use. The Utah Arm can pronate,
supinate, be exchanged for other terminal devices and can operate on
a standard, 9-volt battery. Muscular control of artificial devices
is a current reality (Motion Control Inc, 1999).
future, the same principles may be used to benefit everyone by
allowing us to control mentally an extensive assortment of useful
second area of development is in brain pacemakers or chronic
cerebellar stimulators. These followed the creation of cardiac
pacemakers and were based on research involving the electrical
stimulation of the brain. Chronic cerebellar stimulation (CCS) has
been used with children with spastic movements to help them achieve
some measure of control over their muscle functions. Such mental
pacemakers are now being used to prevent patients from falling into
deep depressions, to avoid epileptic seizures, and to reduce
intractable pain. Patients who suffer from psychosis and for whom
chemotherapy has failed, can be been treated with CCS to help them
on the path to normal behavior. The technique has been used with
neurotics, schizophrenics, and others who have experienced the
feelings of extreme anger often associated with psychosis or violent
behavior (Heath, 1977). Other cerebellar stimulators have been
implanted to minimize the spasticity and athetosis associated with
cerebral palsy (Cooper et al., 1976). In the patients treated for
cerebral palsy, significant improvements were noted in both
cognition and memory (Cooper & Goldman, 1987). In addition, it has
been suggested that other forms of brain stimulation (CSAT - Chronic
Stimulation of Anterior nucleus of Thalamus) might be employed to
reduce other syndromes such as Alzheimer's disease, autism,
Huntington's chorea (Cooper & Upton, 1985), and obsessive-
compulsive behavior (Cooper et al., 1985).
related to cortical stimulation is the experimental work on
electrical muscle stimulation which permits electrical impulses to
be fed directly to inactive muscles paralyzed by injured spinal
cords (Petrofsky, Phillips, & Heaton, 1984; Petrofsky, Phillips &
Stafford, 1984; Phillips & Petrofsky, 1984). (A 1985 TV-movie called
"First Steps", starring Judd Hirsch and Amy Steel popularized the
research of bioengineer Dr. Jerrold Petrofsky of Wright State
University, Dayton, Ohio, and his attempt to make student Nan Davis
brain stimulators have been used successfully for the treatment of
Parkinson's disease. Patients with Parkinson's exhibit tremors in
many areas of their body, associated with overactive cells deep
inside the thalamus of brain. Recently, one of the most highly
effective treatments to reduce these tremors is to have a deep brain
implant, where patients can have an electrode implanted in the
thalamus that constantly stimulates these overactive cells and
inhibits them from firing. Instead of destroying cell tissue, these
stimulators allow patients to function normally by reducing or
eliminating tremors caused by these abnormally overactive cells.
brain stimulation has been recommended as a viable treatment for
Parkinson's disease reducing tremors in nearly 80% of patients,
yielding marked benefits without the adverse side effects common
with medication (Kumar, R., Lozano, A.M., Kim, Y.J., Hutchison,
W.D., Sime, E., Halket, E., Lang, A.E., 1998; Arle, J.E. & Alterman,
mere existence today of simple versions of such devices as brain and
muscle stimulators to help alleviate specific medical conditions
points the way to a potentially bright future for the more complex
models of tomorrow.
third area of development, biocybernetic communication, experimental
work is underway in an attempt to interpret brain wave patterns to
link them to specific thoughts. In early work at Stanford
University, researchers were able to have a subject move a white dot
around a computer screen merely by thinking about it (Pinneo et al.,
1975). The subject’s cortical activity was picked up by surface
electrodes on the scalp, interpreted by a computer, and translated
into corresponding actions on the screen. An obvious goal of
biocybernetic communication would be to use thought to control a
wide variety of appliances. For example, it is now possible to
harness thought to facilitate a broad variety of human activities
from controlling simple video game actions to controlling computers.
Warwick at the Department of Cybernetics of the University of
Reading in England claimed to be the world's first cyborg. In August
of 1998, Professor Warwick underwent surgery to implant a small
transponder (23mm long and 3mm in diameter) encased in glass,
inserted under the skin of his arm.
implant emitted radio frequencies that communicated with external
devices that allowed Warwick to interact with machines, hoping to
become part machine himself. This silicon chip communicated with
various computer receivers, identifying Warwick automatically. When
he entered his home, he was personally greeted; room lights would
turn on in his presence and off in his absence along with other
individualized effects (Cuen, 1998; McClimans, 1998; Witt, 1999).
Warwick became a cyborg, part man and part machine allowing for
automatic, ubiquitous communication between the two.
Although interesting, Warwick’s implant did not directly relate to
the development of the symbionic mind. The implant he received was
merely an electronic beacon without intrinsically intelligent
behavior. He may as well have carried an external ID card. Warwick
could not assert control over this chip, nor did he have any direct
impact on its operation.
Although WearCam designer Steve Mann (originally at the Wearable
Computing Project, MIT Media Laboratory (http://www.media.mit.edu/wearables/)
and now at the University of Toronto Humanistic Intelligence Lab)
developed methods of exporting his field of vision, this does not
strictly constitute a symbionic mind. The extension of this work,
however, from wearable computing to its control by the human cortex
would constitute a definite step towards the creation of the
symbionic mind. Already, Wearable Computing Project members at the
MIT Media Laboratory are investigating the transmission of computer
signals through the human body. The modification of these by the
human brain would constitute a further step towards the symbionic
device which now exists would be intrinsically more useful were it
under the direct control of the human brain (c.f. Birch, 1989). This
is the aim of Erich Sutter's Brain Response Interface (BRI) unit at
the Smith-Kettlewell Institute of Visual Sciences in San Francisco
(Sutter, 1990; 1992). The prototype device used four electrodes
implanted in a patient's brain to determine which computer command
the patient wants executed. One configuration made available some
2,048 user-programmable control options (Rosenfeld, 1989; http://www.csun.edu/cod/94virt/wec~1.html).
Success in this endeavor, of course, depends ultimately on
deciphering the nerve code of mental activity.
Commercially, IBVA Technologies (http://www.ibva.com)
has developed a method for harnessing signals from the brain and
using it to control computer technology. The Interactive Brainwave
Visual Analyzer (IBVA) is an interactive biofeedback control of
brainwave functions. The IBVA picks up electrical brain activity
through a scalp monitor and can translate brainwave signals into any
electronic signal that can control mouse movements, game joysticks,
buttons, and any other electronic device. Many recording artists
have used the IBVA system to control midi synthesizers and digital
audio mixers in order to create music with their minds. Others have
used The IBVA system to control CD players in their homes (DeVito,
1999). By giving ordinary individuals direct control of computer
devices by their brains, IBVA may have taken us one step closer
toward the symbionic mind.
Bakay and Dr. Phillip Kennedy of Emory University have gone a step
further. In the fall of 1998, Bakay successfully implanted a chip
inside the head of a paralyzed patient. The patient, known as J.R.,
had suffered a stroke and, completely paralyzed, was unable to speak
or move even though he retained his cognitive abilities. Bakay
hypothesized that he could intercept J.R.’s brain signals and train
him to use these redirected signals to control a computer. Bakay was
successful not once, but twice. By using a high-resolution brain
scan (MRI), Bakay determined a highly active area of J.R.'s brain in
the motor cortex (Wiechman, 1998; Herberman, 1999). Bakay implanted
two small cones that transformed chemical neural signals into radio
transmissions which were picked up by the computer. Each cone
controlled one axis of movement in two dimensions (up-down and
right-left). J.R. used the radio signal was used to control a
cursor. Without the ability to move or speak, J.R. could type on an
on-screen keyboard to communicate (Wiechman, 1998; Herberman, 1999).
J.R. could communicate, albeit slowly, with individuals, a feat not
previously possible due to his paralysis.
contribution to technologies advancing the symbionic mind
demonstrates direct computer control from patterns of thought. J.R.
demonstrates a telekinetic ability to control a computer and use it
to communicate with others. Brain control of computers is no longer
limited to the realm of science fiction.
the extension of these kinds of biocybernetic research which may
result in mental communication between individuals and machines, and
even between individuals, in a manner similar to telepathy but based
on proven scientific principles and sophisticated technology.
associated area of neurometrics, the study of evoked- response
potentials (EPs) in the cortex has produced interesting results.
These are achieved by measuring minute voltage changes that are
produced in response to a specific stimulus like a light, a bell, or
a shock but which are of such small amplitude as to not show up on a
conventional electroencephalogram (EEG). An averaging computer sums
the responses over time to make them stand out against background
noise. Since the background noise is random, it tends to be
cancelled out. Through the use of this technique, it has now been
established that the long latency response known as the P300 wave
(positive potential, 300 millisecond latency) is usually associated
with decision-making activity (Lerner, 1984). Though the wave
appears after each decision, it is often delayed when a wrong
decision is made. Theoretically then, it should be possible to
construct a device to warn us when we have made a bad decision, to
alert us when we are not paying attention (a boon to air traffic
controllers) or to monitor general states of awareness. It is also
possible using EPs to distinguish motor responses from cognitive
processes, and decision-making processes from action components
(Taylor, 1979). As its objectivity (patient cooperation is not
needed) and non- invasiveness come to be appreciated, more and more
clinical applications of EPs are beginning to appear (Ziporyn,
1981a; 1981b; 1981c), and it is likely that the number of
non-clinical applications will also arise.
fifth area is that of artificial intelligence which includes the
study of pattern recognition, problem solving, and speech
comprehension with a view to reproducing these abilities in
computers (Crevier, 1993). During the last decade, there has been a
renewed interest in the study of neural nets to model cortical
functions on computers (Pagels, 1988).
field of artificial intelligence is pushing the boundaries of what
science considers intelligence and can have a great impact on the
development of the symbionic mind. Scientists such as Avery Brooks
of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have been pioneers in
the development of a more holistic, global AI. In classical AI much
research has been devoted to building complex systems in very
specific, non-realistic worlds. In previous research, expert systems
were created that could not function outside of their own domains of
application. A chess-playing program, for example, could not
converse about the weather. Classical AI had researched itself into
a corner, no longer able to apply their "intelligent" creations to
the real world. Brooks and other researchers realized the incredible
limitation that classical AI has placed upon itself. They brought
forth a new, alternative view of Artificial Intelligence. This
“Nouvelle AI” is based on the grounding hypothesis that: "...to
build a system that is intelligent, it is necessary to have its
representations grounded in the real world " (Brooks, 1990).
In Nouvelle AI, simple creatures are constructed, using real world
models. Instead of reducing intelligence to simple computer
functions, Nouvelle AI assumes that intelligence is a combination of
many behaviors, not a simple list of computer functions. If robots
can perform simple, realistic, applicable behaviors, they would be
emulating simple intelligence that exists in the real world. More
and more Artificial Intelligent systems and computer chips are using
neural nets and fuzzy logic in order to control complex processes
(Gould, 1995). Fuzzy logic systems are able to approach the world
more holistically, dealing with real-world problems and ambiguities
without reducing them to simple, non-realistic computer functions.
Such applications of AI will add intelligent functions to the
symbionic mind embodying cognitive science research to interface
with the human mind.
Increasing importance is the work in the sixth area, biotechnology,
sometimes referred to as genetic engineering. In small laboratories
around the world, scientists are at work attempting to use genetic
engineering principles to construct tiny biological microprocessors
of protein or "biochips" (Futuristic computer biochips..., 1981;
McAuliffe, 1981, Posa, 1981; Whatever happened to molecular
electronics?, 1981; Milch, n.d., Schick et al., 1988). The advantage
is that by using the techniques of recombinant DNA, very small
devices (VSDs) can be assembled with great precision. As
unbelievable as it sounds, such biochips may even be designed to
assemble themselves, perhaps even in three-dimensional forms in the
microgravity of outer space (McAlear, n.d.) If such biochips can be
successfully constructed, it is likely they will have higher density
and higher speed, and will consume less power than conventional
chips (Drexler, 1986). This in itself will be no mean achievement
because of the continuing reduction in circuit size below that of a
Successful though the silicon chip is, new circuits the size of
molecules and smaller are already being developed which could
significantly damage the silicon chip industry and ultimately lead
to the creation of a molecular computer. Biochips would have a
greater probability of successful implantation in the cortex due to
their higher degree of biocompatibility. One company in America has
received a grant from the National Science Foundation for a
feasibility study of the creation of a direct interface between the
central nervous system and an integrated circuit. Their initial plan
called for increasing the number of effective electrodes from an 8 x
8 platinum array currently used in clinical trials to an array with
100,000 electrodes. The development of such technology will depend
heavily on the use of an implanted integrated circuit and
state-of-the-art microfabrication or nanotechnological techniques.
The actual device is expected to consist of electrodes connected to
an interface of cultured embryonic nerve cells which can grow
three-dimensionally and attach themselves to mature nerve cells in
the brain (EMV Associates, 1981; The next generation..., 1981).
Ultimately, the provision of the appropriate set of genes could
enable such a chip to repair itself, DNA codes could be used to
program it, and enzymes used to control it (Biotech..., 1981;
Drexler, 1986). Already under development as a first step is a
device called an "optrode" consisting of a polymer waveguide with a
photovoltaic tip capable of photon-electron conversion. Research has
been undertaken to study the feasibility of using such a tiny,
photoconducting microelectrode to record the firing of a single
neuron, or perhaps even to cause it to fire (McAlear, & Wehrung,
n.d.). Beyond recording the firing of a single neuron, the firing
patterns of whole neuron cultures can now be monitored (Gross et
al., 1985; Droge et al., 1986).
cellular level, researchers at the Max Planck Institute of
Biochemistry have succeeded in creating bio-electronic circuits, a
combination of living organic and inorganic materials (Zeck &
Fromherz, 2001). The researchers interfaced snail neurons with
small electronic chips and demonstrated they could send signals from
chips to neurons and back. Such work paves way for the development
of a successful interface between living human cells and electronic
has received a lot of attention in the last decade.
term "Virtual Reality" was first coined by Jaron Lanier, founder of
VPL Research, the first company to build and produce products
specifically designed for Virtual Reality systems (Lanier, 2001).
Lanier envisioned VR as a virtual space where multiple users could
share an experience. Other authors find this definition too
simplistic. Cartwright (1994, p. 22) defines VR as "...the complete
computer control of the senses. VR becomes a way of sensing /
feeling / thinking." VR allows a computer to alter the human
experience. Other authors such as Heim (1993) critique the use of
the term Virtual Reality as both terms are difficult (at best) to
define. Many researchers use terms such as Artificial Reality,
Augmented Reality, Virtual Environment and other examples that point
to the computer mediation of the senses.
The goal of virtual reality is to create alternate realities by
manipulating sensory inputs and tricking the brain into believing
them. Each of these sensory manipulations, though designed to
contribute to the virtual reality experience, teaches us how better
to manage sensory input to the cortex.
This mediation of the senses is one of the core
elements of the symbionic mind. If the senses are mediated by the
symbionic mind, any number of augmentations can take place. X-ray
vision could be overlaid on the field of vision of engineers to
discover structural problems. Enhanced auditory input could augment
the sensory input of musicians and sound engineers. Improved
gustatory input could be mediated for wine tasters (to detect
otherwise undetectable poisons), improved olfactory detection for
detecting gas leaks, enhancing the appreciation of floral displays,
and bomb detection. Other enhancements could assist in people
detection and recognition, food appreciation, and kinaesthetic
Birth of Symbionics
seven areas have much in common. For the most part, they deal with
the brain directly, with perceptual and thought processes
individually, and with intellectual activity primarily. Like other
media, they are steadily converging (Brand, 1988). Eventually, a
merger will be effected culminating in a routine way of interfacing
with the brain either directly using implanted (or grown in place)
electrodes, or indirectly by picking up brain waves with external
sensors (biocybernetic communication and neurometrics). When that
happens, the symbionic mind will have been born.
symbionic mind may be defined as any apparatus consisting of some
useful device, interfaced with the human brain, capable of
intelligent action. The most difficult task in its creation will be
the design and construction of the interface required to link these
devices to the human cortex. Such a complex interface will no doubt
represent the major component of the symbionic mind, and the
creation of a wide range of standard and optional accessories to
attach to it will probably prove to be a comparatively easy task.
Such auxiliary brain prostheses or symbionic minds are beginning to
be used for appliance control (IBVA), computation, monitoring of
particular body functions, problem-solving, data retrieval, general
intelligence amplification, and inter- and intra-individual
communication. The ultimate revolutionary advance may even be the
direct, electronic transmission of human thought!
most obvious use for a symbionic mind would be to improve human
memory. It is easy to see how people with failing memories might
benefit from supplementary aids - in this case tiny mind prostheses
or "add-on" brains with extra memory storage and better factual
retrieval as well as improved procedural processing. Like a memory
crutch for the brain, the symbionic mind could be invaluable, not
only for patients with Alzheimer's disease but also for everyone
else. The benefits in education would be enormous, not only for
below average and average students but for the gifted as well
(Cartwright, 1982; 1983b; 1983c).
Symbionic minds will do more than just improve memory but as yet one
can only speculate as to their full range of uses. Because the
symbionic mind will be able to interpret our thoughts, our very
wishes will become its commands. Thus it will be able to take
dictation directly from our thoughts, improve them through editing,
and like the voice-processors of today, rearrange whole paragraphs,
perform spelling checks, and supervise the typing of final
documents. To some degree, the human brain may be limited by its
small number of input senses. But a symbionic mind connected to the
brain to amplify its abilities, improve its skills, and complement
its intelligence, could be used to handle additional sensory inputs,
and to make low level decisions about them, discarding irrelevant
data, and passing on more important information to the brain itself.
In the future, it may be possible to build into the symbionic mind
totally artificial senses and connect them directly to the brain.
These artificial senses would simulate most of our existing senses
but would bypass currently available receptor organs. Some of these
might include components of our existing senses; others will be
totally new and the line distinguishing one sense from another may
become increasingly blurred.
what these new senses will be and the uses to which we shall put
them must remain, for the moment, in the realm of speculation.
However, examples might include senses to detect currently invisible
hazards like harmful levels of radiation or pollution in our
immediate environment, or to detect television transmissions or
Internet data and relay them directly to our brains without the aid
of conventional monitors. TV sets and video monitors are merely
converters: they convert signals we are unable to receive in our
natural state into visual signals on the screen which can be input
through our eyes. From the eyes, the signals are converted to
electrochemical impulses and sent to the visual cortex for analysis.
Imagine a small device which could receive signals but instead of
displaying them on a video screen, could channel them directly to
the human cortex. The sensation of "seeing" the pictures would still
exist but one's eyes would be freed for watching other things. Such
devices would not be limited to television and computers but might
include radio and telephone reception as well. In all these
instances, the normal sensory inputs of eyes and ears would be
Preliminary work in this direction was undertaken some years ago at
the University of Florida to find ways of implanting up to 100,000
miniature photovoltaic cells to stimulate previously unused parts of
the retina in cases of retinal blindness. The Dobelle Institute (http://www.dobelle.com)
has developed a visual device that would use neuro-stimulation to
create artificial vision for the blind. Early developments of the
technology are crude, only allowing differentiation between light
and darkness, however, the implications of this development are far
reaching. It may soon be possible for science to bypass the eyes
entirely and feed visual information (from a camera mounted on
eyeglasses) directly to the cortex (Dobelle, 2000). Though the
immediate medical goal is to produce a more effective visual
prosthesis, the perfection of such a technology has much wider
implications for everyone.
auditory domain, patients at the Los Angeles Ear Research Institute
have been fitted with electronic ear stimulators to stimulate
auditory nerves in an attempt to improve hearing. Called cochlear
implants, the technology has been proven to help the profoundly deaf
hear and many who have had the implants have reported that they are
glad they did and would not be without it.
more elementary level, the symbionic brain will provide a
sophisticated interface between ourselves and a wide variety of
household gadgets. The symbionic mind will provide a "thought
switch" to enable us to control appliances merely by thinking about
them, like the commercial products demonstrated by IBVA.
symbionic brain will turn lights on and off for us, activate
television devices and switch channels (feeding the signal directly
to the brain), answer telephone calls and initiate them, and keep
household inventories. It will guard us from a number of dangers and
protect us in a wide variety of situations. At a party it will
monitor our blood alcohol level and warn us when we have had too
much to drink. It will keep an eye on other bodily functions
including digestion and blood sugar levels, and warn us of impending
illness, undue stress, or possible heart attacks. It will guard us
while we sleep, listening for prowlers, and sensing the air for
smoke. It will attend to all household functions and perhaps
ultimately will direct the activities of less intelligent household
robots which are sure to come into existence. It will share with us
its vast memory store and its ability to recall information
virtually instantly - information we thought we had forgotten. It
will put us in touch automatically and wirelessly with huge data
banks containing information it does not possess itself. It will do
math calculations, household budgets, business accounts, and even
make monthly payments for us automatically. It will update its own
information daily by scanning a number of information sources,
perhaps listening to its own information channel, perhaps digesting
local newspapers, sifting for information which it should bring to
our attention, helping us make sense of the world around us. It will
provide a whole new dimension of living to quadriplegics allowing
them to perform many of the routine daily tasks essential to life,
and restoring to them some measure of control over their lives. It
will change the entire realm of communications as we know it today.
Merely thinking of someone you wish to talk with by telephone will
initiate a search by the symbionic mind to locate that person
anywhere in the world and establish a direct link. Though physical
telephones will be avoided, the two symbionic minds will be in
direct contact over the communications network and thoughts will
flow between beings in seemingly telepathic fashion; indeed this may
be the closest we will ever come to true telepathy. How ironic that
even if telepathy does not exist, we may nevertheless be able to
Future of Symbionics
Feedback from Virtual Reality (VR) to control the body
future, the symbionic mind will use input from VR to influence the
body. It can be readily seen how the bombardment of the body's
senses by VR-generated information can have a direct effect on the
systems of the body. Heart rate may increase, respiration quicken,
and palms perspire. Improved VR experiences may be tailored to
effect specific changes in other bodily senses like smell or
input could be used to bypass the usual human senses and be fed
directly to the symbionic mind for direct input to the brain.
Visual, tactile, auditory, olfactory, and gustatory stimuli could be
transmitted directly to the cortex. An example might be infrared
information transmitted directly to the symbionic brain and overlaid
on the visual system giving the user the sensation of infrared
vision. Conventional VR equipment of data-gloves and head-mounted
displays would be made obsolete.
Feedback from the Body to control VR
Similarly, but in a reverse direction, it should be possible to use
feedback from the cortex to control the inputs to VR to enable the
technology to tailor or individualize perceptual experiences. For
example, a person in a state of fright because of some VR-related
phenomenon would exhibit particular Galvanic Skin Responses (GSR),
EEG-readings, increased heart rate, higher adrenaline levels, and
orienting responses that can be output by the symbionic mind to the
VR apparatus to change the environment and help stabilize the user.
In this way, VR could be used adaptively to protect the user from
Symbionic minds using wireless full duplex (two-way) transmission
could be used to receive broadcast or narrowcast VR. Broadcast VR
would transmit a single experience to multiple recipients;
narrowcast VR would transmit multiple experiences to a single user.
provision of wireless, full duplex symbionic technology will also
facilitate the unique addressing of every individual perhaps with
like Internet Protocol (IP) addresses for electronic identification
of computers on the Internet today. In the past, people telephoned a
location to find a person. Today with digital cellular telephony we
phone a person to find their location. This new technology
facilitated a paradigmatic shift from using the telephone to dial a
person instead of a place. Currently IP addresses denote physical
locations. In the future, they will represent personal, symbionic
contacts with specific individuals permitting the creation of
Personal Area Networks or PANs (IEEE, 2001; Zimmerman, 1996).
symbionic mind will not be a truly separate brain but will be an
extension of us, of our very being. It will not seem to be foreign
to us in any way, nor will it pose to us any kind of threat by
trying to take us over any more than would our own brain. The
symbionic mind will be as much a part of us as a hand or an eye, and
it will seem to us simply our own brain doing the thinking. It will
be transparent to us. We will not be aware of any separate entity,
nor of any other change except an increased ability to perform those
intellectual asks we have always performed, and a new capability to
accomplish those which were previously impossible.
symbionic mind will act purposefully and wilfully but always on our
behalf and at our direction. It will be our constant companion and
friend, conscience, and alter-ego. The science of symbionics
culminating in the development of the symbionic mind may well mark
the next significant step in our evolution to a higher plane of
existence, and the dawn of a new era.
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