Friday, 22 April 2011

Thicken your skull

“Everyone’s opened a drawer and been startled by the unexpected discovery of an old mobile phone that now resembles an outsized pantomime prop. To think you used to be impressed by this clunky breezeblock. You were like a caveman gawping at a yo-yo.
Now it’s almost time to hurl another outmoded device down the historical garbage chute: your body. Last week, researchers at Washington University unveiled a new mind-control computer system.” 
“[...] Already they’ve had volunteers controlling an onscreen cursor by imagining different vowel sounds. 
As soon as they refine it further, giving the user the ability to steer the pointer around and click on things, the days of mass-market Wi-Fi mind-controlled iPads will be upon us before you can smother your kids in their sleep to protect them from precisely such a future. 
But is this really so sinister? All computers are mind-controlled already. My hand may steer the mouse and my fingers may punch the keys, but none of this takes place without my mental say-so. My brain runs things round here. Surely all a mind-controlled interface does is cut out the corporeal middleman, leaving your fingers free to do something more useful, such as plugging your ears so you can’t hear the horrified screams spontaneously exploding from your facehole
What’s the problem? 
The problem is that the body is the final, crucial buffer between the skittish human mind and the slavish machine servant. Think of how many furious e-mail responses you’ve composed in haste, only to halt and reflect at the final moment as your finger hovers over the “send” button. The simple fact that a small physical action is required to actually deliver the damn thing is often enough to give pause for thought.
When mind-controlled computers become a commonplace reality, you’ll have typed and sent that message in the time it takes to stub a toe; as quick as pulling a facial expression, but more detailed, and full of swearwords. 
While your brain might be great at controlling machines, how great are you at controlling your brain? 
Let’s face it, if you’re honest, there’s a whole world of bad things routinely fizzing and popping around in your head that you wouldn’t want a computer to unquestioningly act on. Remember: when they triumphantly unveil an iPhone that lets you dial your sweetheart simply by thinking about their face, don’t be fooled into thinking it’s wonderful. It’s a slippery slope. 
Resist the mind probe. Thicken your skull. Staple a doormat around it if necessary. Keep those thoughts trapped inside where they belong. Because if the imp of the mind ever sidesteps the body and gets its hand directly on the steering wheel, humankind can look forward to six months of unpredictable chaos, then doomsday.”

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