Archive by Author | Axel Persoon

The road to becoming a robot.

Recently a bio-medical engineer by the name of Theodore Berger has made some astonishing progress in the field of brain implants. For decades he has focused his work on deciphering the human brain and specifically the part of the brain that triggers memories (the hippocampus). He is now at a point where he is able to trigger memories in the brain of a mouse or monkey. He does this by using a computer chip which mimics the signals a hippocampus uses to trigger a memory. For now this silicon chip is still on the outside of the body and no testing has been done yet on humans. Imagine though what it could mean if Berger manages to develop a model which you can plant in your brain that will help you to recall memories. Alzheimer patients will have less issues with forgetting the names of their beloved ones, to give one example.

If this would become reality, and this is a big if, it would be a pretty large step forward in biomedical technology. But let’s take it a step further, what if we could build chips that will allow us to start dreaming at command or which will be able to feed our brain all kinds of information in a matter of seconds? Once we have unlocked the code of the brain this process could be very fast. It will probably be the ethical side of it which will slow it down. And now that we are fantasizing anyway, what about the other way around? We can put machines in our minds, but can we put our minds into a machine? According to Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google, this will also be possible in a matter of years. It all comes down to computing power for this particular challenge. It’s estimated that by 2045 we will be able to store our minds on a computer and therefore achieve (digital) immortality.

However, this means your mind will be stored on some sort of datacenter, or perhaps in a virtual reality somewhere, but you won’t actually be able to put your mind in a new body. Which is where Bergers findings and Kurzweils predictions come together. Kurzweil thinks that by 2090 all the biological parts of our body will be replaceable by manufactured body parts. Combine this with a mind you can store and download in a manufactured brain, and you have really achieved immortality.

The implications of these kinds of technologies on our society would be enormous and I’m interested to hear how you guys would feel about techniques as these.

Personally, I only need to find a way to keep myself alive until 2090.

 

Sources:

Cohen, J. (2013) Memory Impants, MIT Technology Review, http://www.technologyreview.com/featuredstory/513681/memory-implants/

Woollaston, V (2013) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2344398/Google-futurist-claims-uploading-entire-MINDS-computers-2045-bodies-replaced-machines-90-years.html

Advertisements

The War on Ecosystems

Slowly but steadily they have been infiltrating all aspects of our lives, wanting to be a part of everything you do, almost like that annoying friend we all have had once. Yet I’m not talking about a friendship here, I’m aiming a little higher. Apple, Google and Microsoft high that is.

Everyone these days has a smartphone, and almost all of them are either iPhones, Android phones or Windows Phones. Laptops and computers is also a commodity we all have these days, preferably more than one. Here we meet the same competitors again; Apple, Google and Microsoft. Tablet industry; same story. And that’s not even the end of it, all of three companies are continuously expanding their reach, all for one reason: to get you into their ecosystem.

Google-vs-apple-vs-microsoft

First off, we have Apple. The company that became immensely popular overnight because of the iPhone. This popularity had an influence on all of their other products they sell as well. Macbooks, iPads, Apple TV’s, for all of them sales rose incredibly. And so, the first form of an ecosystem was born. Every device you had could be an Apple, and it wasn’t long before there were people everywhere who didn’t want to touch anything not produced by Apple. These days Apple’s reputation is starting to show some cracks and dents. Competitors have caught up and the same quality products are now available, but for a lower price than Apple products. Apple has to step up their game to stay on top.

Google has always be a company which is active in a hundred different industries. It has taken them a couple of years, but they have now also moved into position to offer a full Google ecosystem. Android phones, Chromebooks and tablets manufactured by Google gives customers a viable alternative to Apple. Android has even taken over Apple as market leader, although this is also because of the sheer volume of mobile phone producers using the Android OS. The approach Google has is a bit different than Apple’s. Where the Apple ecosystem is really closed, but therefore fine-tuned to provide ultimate user satisfaction, Google has a really open system with a lot of producers and different products. Google’s motive is also a bit different, because they always have their mighty search engine in mind. For this reason they want as many people possible to have access to their products so they can track their behavior online.  They are the most active with “side-projects” though. Google Glass is a completely new way of interacting with the digital world and they have also developed self-driving cars. You never know what Google comes up with next!

Then there is Microsoft. The former giant of the digital age who couldn’t keep up with the mobile market. But while many people have already written them off they are actually stepping up their game. With the introduction of the new Windows 8, the start of their own production line of Tablets (Surface) and their takeover of Nokia’s mobile department they are all set to provide users with a complete Microsoft experience. And they have the power to make a very swift comeback. What a lot of people are forgetting is that almost the complete business world is still using Windows and almost everyone uses some form of Offices. If Microsoft gives them the option to combine their long trusted Windows machine with a tablet and phone, a lot of people will be interested.

It’s very interesting to see these three companies clash with each other, recently Google has blocked Microsoft out of their services for example, but perhaps it isn’t necessary that one of them comes out of the smoke as victor? Maybe they can all exist next to each other?

Personally, my money is on Microsoft, but what do you guys think? Who has your vote as the best ecosystem around?