Volume 2, Issue 4 
4th Quarter, 2007

Upgrading Humans - Technical Realities and New Morals

Kevin Warwick, Ph.D.

This article was adapted from a lecture given by Professor Kevin Warwick, Ph.D. during the 3rd Annual Workshop Webinar on Geoethical Nanotechnology, on July 20th, 2007.

Dr. Warwick, Professor of Cybernetics at the University of Reading, England, describes how his 1998 experiment allowed him the title of the world’s first, ‘Human Cyborg’ when he implanted a Radio Frequency Identification Device (of his own design), within his body. Dr. Warwick also explains the present and possible future benefits of the technology of merging man and machine.

From the last millennium, as far back as 1998, I became the first human to have one of these things that you see on Image 1, implanted.  Not the coin, because the coin is just there to show what a typical salary of a professor is in the UK.  On the right-hand side is an RFID, Radio Frequency Identification Device. [1]

Image 1: RFID

The implant in my left arm actually identified me to the computer in the building at Reading University.  We got the computer to open doors for me, to switch on lights, even to say "hello" when I came through the front door.   

Since we're using the same sort of technology, in hand somewhat, with different tracking devices, either by the cell phone network or by GPS, to track and monitor individuals. That opens all sorts of ethical questions, not just with regard to the identity of a person, which is one you can get by the radio frequency ID devices, maybe information on the person or even their body state, but also where the person is at any time. I get embroiled now in all sorts of questions as to whether we should use the technology for tracking and locating old people perhaps suffering from dementia, or even abducted children.  I am keeping a technological low profile on that.

The article overall, though, is looking at the merger between humans and technology and what that can offer.  There are two aspects to that. One is the possibility of enhancement, upgrading, actually giving all humans extra abilities.  The other is to look at problems where technology can be used for therapeutic purposes.  From an ethical point of view, there are more immediate possibilities; fewer people are concerned about that.

One thing we are working on with surgeons is the deep brain stimulator used with Parkinson's disease. [2] We are trying to take that a stage further.

Image 2 shows an actual incident of tremors coming on in a time sequence. This is data taken from an actual patient. On the bottom of the four graphs what we can see, if you go along the graph, is EMG movement signals.[3]  There is nothing until about 45 seconds, just over halfway through.

Image 2: MLP Output (click above for larger image)

Then the sequence is showing movement of a patient at a particular time point.  This is at about the 45-second time point.  This is when the tremors actually start.

If we look at the third trace then what we can see is the data taken from the actual implant in the individual's brain that has Parkinson's disease. This is local field potential data.  Up until about the 45-second mark, the variations of the signal are much greater and then they deteriorate.

We are putting in an artificial brain, a computer brain, an artificial neural network, to learn to recognize the tremors, but also to try to predict when tremors are going to occur before they occur.

We can see on the first/top trace the output of the network operating accurately -- well, it's stating that tremors are occurring -- but more importantly, at an earlier point, particularly this point at 30 seconds, we are seeing the network predicting accurately that Parkinsonian tremors are going to occur, before they occur.  In fact, it is about 15 to 20 seconds before they occur.



1. Radio-frequency identification (RFID) - an automatic identification method, relying on storing and remotely retrieving data using devices called RFID tags or transponders. An RFID tag is an object that can be applied to or incorporated into a product, animal, or person for the purpose of identification using radiowaves. Some tags can be read from several meters away and beyond the line of sight of the reader.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RFID  October 12, 2007 3:49PM EST

2. Parkinson's disease - a movement disorder that is chronic and progressive and occurs when a group of cells in an area of the brain called the substantia nigra begin to malfunction and die.
http://www.pdf.org/AboutPD/  October 12, 2007 4:10PM EST

3. EMG - Electromyography, or EMG, involves testing the electrical activity of muscles. Often, EMG testing is performed with another test that measures the conducting function of nerves.
October 12, 2007 4:15PM EST



1 2 3 4 5 Next Page>