ESP bridges the gap
30.03.23: THE FINALS of the World Bridge Tournament were halted dramatically today amid claims that players had been cheating.
The pan-European contestants, George and Georgia Blackwood who astounded bridge-watchers earlier this week by achieving a grand slam with only two aces between them are now having tests to check their brains for so-called telepathy bugs.
These minute implants can transmit and receive information from brain to brain, producing a crude form of telepathy, depending on their positioning. If you have a transmitter fitted in Broca's area (the part of the brain responsible for language articulation) and someone else has one fitted in Wernicke's area (responsible for language comprehension), you can exchange thoughts.
"You wouldn't want to conduct diplomatic negotiations using these bugs," says surveillance expert Jessica Scholl, "but they're fine if it's just a few specific words you want to convey 'jack of diamonds', for example."
Telepathy bugs were developed by the Anglo army for use in undercover anti-terrorist operations, and the commercial arm of the military now markets them worldwide as an aid for the deaf. The sale and fitting of such devices is strictly controlled: only one military neurologist in Britain is licensed to perform the operation.
Last year, however, a Harley Street surgeon was struck off after admitting that he had fitted transmitters in the brains of a magician and his assistant.The bugs were discovered when the entertainers were tested following claims by the Magic Circle association of performers that their tricks could not be done any other way. The performers have denied the charges. RC
Cyber ghost must die...
12.02.49: THE SUPREME COURT yesterday ordered computer scientist Nat Baker to switch off the quantum supercomputer in which he claims to have cloned his consciousness in a bid for electronic immortality.
The machine, programmed with the information content of the scientist's brain, appears to be conscious and identical in personality to Baker.
The court order was issued after the Council for the Protection of All Sentient Entities (Cepase) argued that prolonging the computer-based consciousness was potentially cruel.
Many machines are assumed to be self-aware, but the subjective quality of machine consciousness is distinct from that of humans because they function in a different physical context. Earlier hearings determined that this ruled out any possibility of suffering. Baker's case is unique because he claims the computer's consciousness is identical to his own.
"To have human consciousness you need a human body," explains Baker. "I have got around that by putting my consciousness in a virtual reality which gives him the illusion that he is still physically inside my head."
To do that, Baker implanted a matrix of transmitters in his own brain that relay incoming sensory experiences to the computer, where they create the illusion of walking, talking, seeing, hearing and feeling.
"The consciousness created inside the computer cannot distinguish itself in any way from the consciousness I am experiencing here and now," says Baker.
"In fact, it might be that I am in the computer and that another Nat Baker is out there. Whichever way, I know for certain that we are both happy, and I don't want to pull the plug on either of us."
A Cepase spokesman said: "They may be happy now, but what happens when Baker dies? His other half will experience the agony of dying, then will be left without any sensory input, a disembodied mind with no link to the world - a fate worse than death." RC
29.10.16: THE FIRST meat produced from non-sentient animals went on sale in New York today.
The "mindless meat" sausages and cold cuts sold under the brand name Veggiemeat comes from pigs genetically modified so that they will not develop consciousness.
Non-sentient pigs are produced by removing from the parent animals' germ-line cells (eggs and sperm) the genes that code for the neurotransmitters essential for awareness.
The resulting offspring are matured in a vegetative coma. Their muscles are then exercised by external electrical stimulation to give the meat normal texture.
"Mindless meat" was developed by a UN-funded team of neuroscientists to pave the way for global animal rights legislation that will prohibit the slaughter of unmodified animals for any purpose other than to relieve their pain.
The meat-eating lobby thought to be about 15% of the world's population threatened to make the legislation unworkable, but UN leaders hope the opposition will abate now that they are able to keep meat on the menu. RC
A California man has regained his sight after part of his brain was replaced with silicon-based neurons.
Tom Keirney, 35, had been blinded by a bullet that passed through the back of his head, damaging the visual cortex. Three months ago, scientists inserted a dense matrix of artificial neurons, which has now connected to the remaining tissue in the cortex.
Mind where you go
11.03.18: SCIENTISTS now know exactly which parts of the brain make us feel good, bad or indifferent.
The 20-year project to map the human brain is finally complete, and the resulting "brain manual" shows how the brain's 400,000 "modules" interact to produce the human mind.
"We now know, in theory, precisely which areas of the brain need to be manipulated to produce any illusion, any mood, any type of recollection virtual reality, if you like," says the project's leader, Professor Sean Fowler.
The Brain Mapping Project was started in the 1990s, when functional brain imaging techniques first made it possible to watch patterns of activity in a working brain. The sensory modules for example, the areas that deal with elements of visual experience, such as colour, depth and form were relatively rapidly charted. However, it was not until helmet-style scanners were invented in 2005 that it became possible to watch what happens in a person's brain when it carries out normal day-to-day activities.
Critics of the project have claimed the technique is no better than the Victorian "science" of phrenology.
The interactions between brain modules revealed by the new machines were so complex that the brain-mapping project was nearly abandoned.
"People said that the brain would always be mysterious. Luckily, some of us never believed that," Fowler said. "Now we have finally produced the full instruction manual we just have to decide what to do with it." RC
And the language of love
: Colette, the talking ape, and her human speech facilitator Claude
Lemann, have announced that they intend to marry. If the ceremony -
planned to take place in a lunar hotel beynd terrestrial jurisdiction-
goes ahead it will mark the first inter-species marrriage.
Colette, a 17-year-old great ape, is the only primate to undergo "artificially enhanced evolution". She was separated from her mother at birth and brought up by human foster parents.
To encourage Colette's development, electrical currents were used to stimulate the frontal lobes of her brain - the parts responsible for imagination and thought - and the left hemisphere areas which , in humans, are reponsible for language. Her jaw and vocal chords were surgically altered to make it possible for her to talk, and she was subjected to continuous intensive speech training. Lemann, 52, took over her educatio n last year and in May he announced on WebWorld that their relationship had "blossomed into romance".
Their wedding plans have sent shock waves through the scientific community and Lemann has been accused of exploitation, perversion and blasphemy. "This is just prejudice" he said. "We are in love and nothing will stand in our way".
Dressed in a grey suit, with her facial hair closely shaved, Colette smiled shyly at photographers and held hands with Lemann throughout their press statement. Her verbal skills - said by Lemann to those of a 17-year-old human - were not greatly in evidence.
However, when asked how she felt about Lemann, she turned to him and said, softly but clearly: "Je t'aime" RC
Going bananas over Florida fruit
27.03.48: HOSPITALS IN FLORIDA are being swamped by patients experiencing intense flashbacks of past horrors.
'The symptoms are like post-traumatic stress disorder,' says health chief Dan Roche. '"Body memories" stored in the brain's fear centre, the amygdala, repeatedly flood back. We've seen people reliving car crashes and air disasters. The ER rooms are like disaster-movie sets.'
Brain scans reveal amygdala abnormalities, probably caused by a prion, a slow-acting infectious protein. One theory is that the prion was created by a faulty switch in early crops of GM fruit. Florida was first to produce GM crops and some fruit was sold illegally on the home market. RC
This article first appeared in The Sunday Times Chronicle of the Future in the year 2000. .
© Rita Carter 2007 - ritacarter.co.uk