Gods Car…

Chris Brooker
March 4, 2011

I don’t have anything great to post. Was going to write about PodCamp, but it was so long ago now. All I could do is post pictures. PodCamp was awesome BTW.

I leave you with this ridiculousness I saw while driving to work this morning.


WTF? A Pontiac G5 is not “Gods Car”. God needs a car like unicorns need a cars. They don’t, cuz they’re both magical and fictional.

Intelligent life is NOT artificial

Chris Brooker
April 30, 2010

I’ve been thinking a lot about Artificial Intelligence (AI) lately. Not really if it’s feasible (it soon will be) or how precisely it could be accomplished but more about the ethics involved. I feel very strongly that one day very soon a sentient being will be create and I fear our human nature will ultimately destroy it or force our own extinction.

Let me elaborate. First, the term Artificial Intelligent is very derogatory. Artificial, fake, imitation, counterfeit, not real, right off the bat it devalues the life of this new sentient being. AI describes a sentients created by man but the creator has little relevance to the life that has been created. Every woman has the ability to create life but these aren’t Artificial Intelligences. An ovum is fertilized in a petri dish then re implanted into a women to mature until birth. Is this life artificial? Are birthed lives more valuable because they are the “natural” way? Who are we to say life only has value if it was created in a particular way.

We keep talking about creating all sorts of rules that these beings will have to follow. Most famous the 3 laws of robotics offered by Isaac Asimov that state;

1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2) A robot must obey any orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Which he himself explored and concluded could not account for every possible situation. If a being disobeys these laws I presume the punishment would be death. However, now what we’re doing is creating an entire class system essentially for what is another race (I’m going to call this new race “Race 0”). Us humans also have rules, we call them laws. The laws allow us to have order and things generally work. However, we are allowed to make mistakes. Making a mistake does not sentence us to death. To err is human after all. In fact most or our laws are based on a person’s intent rather than an outcome. Humans are allowed to make mistakes but Race 0 is not? Possibly; To err is to be alive?

Let’s try this from another direction up until now we’ve been talking about Race 0 as if they are a computer program or robot that’s been created by man and proven to be sentient. What if the first Non-human intelligence is created though biological engineering? Someone in a lab is able to create a mass of neurons that come together and create an intelligent, sentient being. Would this change how you’d look at it? Now it’s not metal vs. meat. Now it’s another biological organism, would it be required to be created with rules from birth? Or like us would it be expected to learn our societal rules and values? Why would this be different than creating life in a computer? Life is life no matter what package it comes in.

If we keep our current attitude and opinions based on fear, can you not see how this can and will lead to oppression of another race? In fact human history is filled with just such events. If we teach this new intelligence all of our bad traits, hate, fear, indifference to life, it’s almost a certainty that it will, like us, rise up and become the oppressors, commit unthinkable acts of genocide and possibly lead to the extermination and extinction of the human race. Race 0 could be stronger, faster and more intelligent than us. We wouldn’t stand a chance. (ie. The Matrix, Battlestar Galactica, I, robot, etc.)

Already we are treating a possible new intelligence as if it has no rights. We need to change this view before Race 0 is created and we start down the wrong path again. Respect and trust go a lot further than oppression and imprisonment. Have we not learned anything?

The loss of science hackers?

Chris Brooker
April 3, 2010

(Image from xkcd)

Some of you may or may not know but I have a deep passion for science. So deep in fact that my pleasure reading is almost entirely science related books, journals, paper and studies. With my favourite subjects being;

1) The brain (human mostly) architecturally, chemically, wiring, basically the hardware level.
2) How the mind works, the psychology, human behavior and perception.
3) Quantum Mechanics
4) Theoretical Particle Physics
5) Genetics and Epigenetics

It’s pretty diverse set of subjects that most people probably don’t think much about. The only problem? I’m a Software Engineer, not a “Scientist”. I don’t a have degree in Physics nor do I have a PHD. So basically I’m not permitted to make any contributions to modern science.

Let me explain;

In the past as humans have evolved, science has been something that’s been in reach of pretty much anyone who has had the interest. You could easily scrounge together some simple supplies, test theories through experimentation and have breakthroughs that greatly impact scientific innovation. The barrier to entry was low and anyone could participate. Where would we be without the garage inventers and tinkers?

Modern science it seems, at least as an outsider looking in, is vastly different. It’s something only the few are allowed to participate in and is, at this point, almost run as a corporation. Doing everything you can to get and keep the most grants. A place where only safe science is rewarded.

Now we get to the fundamental problem. The barrier to entry to modern science is too high. The equipment necessary to come to any scientific breakthroughs in the modern world is prohibitally expensive. Only large companies and universities can afford it. Let’s say for example in my spare time, I wanted to work on the mysteries of the brain or recreate the results of an experiment I read in a paper. I can’t, not because I’m incapable, but because I don’t have access to say an fMRI machine nor could I ever afford one. I can’t afford a genetic sequencer, a mass spectrometer, a scanning electron microscope, a particle accelerator, etc, etc. There is just too much ridiculously expensive equipment that’s required to contribute anything groundbreaking to modern science.

With the cost so high the only option we have available is to go to university get a degree in a single field, then a PHD, but now you’ve made a whole career out of it and you’re stuck, essentially in the same subject. But you will be granted magical access to the machines. Now you can start working on hard problems. Oh wait, not really, you need to get a grant, and to get it you’ll probably be stuck doing trials for a pharmaceutical company looking to increase profit margins. (Just an example). In this kind of word safe science is rewarded and innovation is a distant second. There’s no predictable profit in that. Not to mention the quotas on papers, etc. It becomes a career and not a passion!

Now I’m not saying all scientists are like this. Some are doing amazing work that blows my mind. You guys are incredible! And there are a few garage tinkers and science hackers out there working on hard problems like nuclear fusion but the vast majority could do so much more with access to the right equipment.

I had the idea a while ago where I wanted to create a fully stocked lab, equipment, supplies, machines (mass spec, fMRIs, EEGs, etc) and rent lab time by the hour. Each new member would have to go through a short orientation on each machine to ensure they knew how to use it correctly. But at least the general public could have access to the equipment and supplies that today is only available to the select few. Kind of the way people can rent time at a garage to work on their cars with all the tools available. We need to lower the cost of entry, real ground breaking science is now out of reach for most people. It’s sad.

Scientists, hackers, people with a passion for science and a desire to contribute who didn’t follow the academic channel, what do you think? Do you see what I’m saying? Let’s chat.

And if you have access to equipment and lab space and are looking for something to do, I have ideas and questions that could use some experimentation.

Human Eye Camera

Chris Brooker
July 21, 2009

Another step towards our inevitable merging with machines, at least in my eyes :).


George Milde has designed what he is calling the human eye camera. It’ been spcifecally build and tuned to show us exactly what the raw images captures by our eyes look like before our brain processes then into the view we are accustomed. It’s really amazing to see it like this.

Imagine if this camera could output a signal exactly the same as out current eyes which we could then connect to the optic nerve of someone who’s lost their eye (hardware) but not the wiring. To the brain it would be exactly the same as the original eye. I think we need to start looking at the signalling system used in the nervous system.

I have a few more ideas about this here.

Check it out: Four Fifths Design

Optic nerve signal interception, interpretation, manipulation and reintroduction for human/computer interface for use in augmented reality

Chris Brooker
April 26, 2009

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about human/computer interfaces in respect to augmented reality. There seem to be, at least to me, a lack of serious research in the field of true human/computer interfaces.

Sure, we’ve been able to control simple systems by training ourselves to modify our brainwaves or flexing muscles to control an artificial limb. But this is more us adapting to the interface than us truly being one with the machine.

I think the main problem has been the lack of very detailed research on how our nervous system actually works. More specifically for this post the optic nerve. There is book after book that describes the anatomy of the retina, optic nerve, optic chiasm, optic tracts, etc. But no where have I been able to find a book or paper on how precisely the optic nerve transfers the signal from the retina to the visual cortex.

It’s estimated that there are 1.2 million nerve fibers that make up the optic nerve.

  • What are these fibers?
  • Does each fiber behave like a wire transferring electrical impulses?
  • Do they work together as one large wire?
  • Do they work in groups of wires transmitting different information?
  • Are the fibers redundant groups transfering the same data in case one is damaged?
  • Do we have to tap each fiber?
  • Is the data transmission bidirectional?
  • Does the eye receive any information from the optic nerve?
  • What is the nature of the signal?
  • Is it straight bit data?
  • Is it a complex modulated signal? Etc.

I can’t seem to find answers to any of these questions. Perhaps I’m not looking hard enough or perhaps there has really been any research into it.If I had the resources required to answer these questions I would very much like to work towards the follow goals or thesis.


Is it possible to splice into the optic nerve (intercept) and feed the signal (for lack of a better term) into a computer, interpret those impulses into raw retinal image data that can be displayed on a computer screen (interpretation), manipulate the raw retinal image data (ie superimpose text) (manipulation) and injecting that altered signal back into the optic nerve for traditional processing by the visual cortex (reintroduction).

If anyone would like to discuss this stuff further drop me a line.



Here is a project that is on the leading edge of this type of research. However, they are interfacing with receptor cells in the retina with a prosthesis and not going straight to the signal. You will still require a functioning or partially functioning eye. Still great science!


Random Additions brought about through discussing this subject

“As to the actual task of intercepting the optic nerve signal, it seems to my blissful ignorance to be a rather straighforward thing. I’m not sure if anyone has actually been able to accomplish it. If you had to tap all 1.2 million optical nerve fibers I could see it being difficult ;).”

“I have a feeling that many of those nerve fibers are redundant, much like the rest of the brain, and we may only need to intercept a relatively small percentage of them to get the desired result, or at least a close approximation of it.

The technology that I think we should really watch out for it nanotechnology.  In theory the tiny things could independently search out the nerves and attach themselves to it, requiring simply an injection and not risky surgery.  Some form of radio wave or  microwave could then be used to communicate with them, ie. receiving and sending video feed.  Frankly this kind of thing could be extrapolated to any part of the brain.  For example you could create a “movie” where the viewer feels everything the character feels, including all the senses, emotion,  even thoughts.”


There is also the great work that is being done at the Human Connectome Project


More specific to this post, here is a dataset from the University of Utah. The Retinal Connectome Mosaics.


Here is another advancement (April 5, 2010);


Researchers in Australia have developed a “wide-view neurosimulator,” to help give sight back to the blind. By implanting electrodes in the eye, they’ll allow those with degenerative vision loss to see a pixelated version of the world around us.

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