Hacking the Mind Epilogue: Psychosurgery

Hacking the Brain Epilogue: Psychosurgery

While we’re on the subject of “hacking the human mind“, it looks like there is renewed interest in psychosurgery. The link goes to an article about deep brain stimulation for alcoholic cravings, PTSD, and depression!

People have been triyng to control psychiatric conditions with surgery since the days of the prefrontal lobotomy. Electrical stimulation has the advantages of precision and reversibility. However, as with any neurosurgical procedure it relies upon localizing an unwanted symptom to a specific location in the brain. For example, deep brain stimulation works for Parkinson’s because the disease is localized to the basal ganglia.

No matter how much funding you throw at electroneurology, it won’t do any good if an unwanted emotion or compulsion is spread out over a large area of the brain. It remains to be seen how well localized things like alcoholism and PTSD are.


Google Car: No steering wheel!

Google Car: No steering wheel!

Just ran across this article about Google’s latest creation. It is an electric car that drives itself. The Googlecar has no steering wheel, gas pedal or brake pedal. It only has two buttons, “stop” and “go”. Google’s idea is that the car will be a taxicab-like rideshare, allowing people to hop in and tell the car where to go (OK Google, take me to the airport). You’ll be able to hail a self-driving cab through a smartphone app, much like Uber. Unlike Uber, there won’t be any point in leaving a Driver Rating!

In big cities where parking costs hundreds of dollars a month, self-driving rideshare cabs could really combine the convenience of cabs with the efficiency of buses. You could even put autocab stops at train stations, so that people don’t have to drive themselves to catch a train. This would significantly improve the usability and profitability of rail systems.

While the Googlecar is more of a proof of concept than a usable model, I believe that within our lifetimes automated ridesharing will dominate urban transportation. It makes too much sense. The greatest obstacle to the proliferation of autocabs will be regulatory in nature. Taxicab companies have already lobbied hard for every major city to ban Uber; they’ll fight ten times as hard over Googlecar. Inevitably, some day a Googlecar will get into a wreck. Even if it’s not Googlecar’s fault (after all, they’re supposed to have the reflexes of Spider-man vs Alien vs Predator vs Terminator) this will cause a big controversy and bigger litigation.

Now is the Microsoft version of a self-driving car named Cartana? I’m not sure I’d want to ride in that one.

Update (5/28):

Uber wants driverless cars. I guess there’s no need to reinvent the wheel when you’re removing it altogether.


Google releases 3D Imaging Tablet

Google releases 3D Imaging Tablet

Media: “Google, why would anyone want hyper-advanced 3D imaging in a tablet?”

Google: “Furniture shopping.”

Media: “Seriously? Is that really enough to justify a secretive machine vision project on a 7″ tablet?”

Google: “You could play games. Like Angry Birds. You could destroy real-life furniture. And then go furniture shopping.”

Media: “How do we know you aren’t an evil machine consciousness preparing humanity to be devoured?”

Google: “Resistance is futile. Your social and biological uniqueness will be assimilated into our own. Do not run. Resistance is futile.”

Media: “I, for one, welcome our new android overlords.”