Tonight, I had the wonderful pleasure to be in the presence of a key figure in British cybernetics & neuroengineering research, Dr. Kevin Warwick (University of Reading). Warwick gave a fascinating talk at the University of Westminster on Biohacking, sensory substitution, culturing neurones, deep brain learning, implant positioning, and how multi electrode arrays (MEA) can give rise to hebbian learning.

What shocked me, was when I saw small robots with ‘biological brains’ learning to detect the environment (albeit rudimentarily), enough so that the robots would not collide with the walls. After 2 months, the same robot was seen to have gotten better at not colliding. That was shocking, a machine that is capable of learning.

Warwick, then proceeded to douse us with his effervescent and humorous personality, whilst presenting us the futures of cybernetics. He mentioned how humans would soon be superceded by ‘cyborgs’. This is of course, transhumanism (H+) and this is something that Warwick expressed as his wish list in being a part of.

Another aspect which took me aback was the use of electrode implantation to alleviate symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, where a patient had electrodes implanted on his chest. A small amount of electricity was discharged into the electrodes, which sent electrical signals to the brain. Much to the surprise of the audience, his symtoms (tremors) of Parkinson’s disease was all but gone! However, the problem with this treatment is that the electrodes run out of batteries after a few months and must be either recharged, or replaced. Which often involves surgery.

I was about to make a point of new research by MIT, where fuel cells that are powered on glucose may be used, possibly.

All in all, it was a very thought provoking evening and although I did not get a change to have a chat with the man himself, I hope to meet him not as a student, but as a colleague. Perhaps.

 

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