Documenting the Coming Singularity

Monday, July 30, 2007

A Failure of Imagination

Is it just me? Or does this article, and many like it, strike you as exposing a stunning lack of vision on the part of scientists and the journalists who cover them? And if so, is this phenomenon part of a much larger problem in society as a whole?

Sorry to be so negative, but here's why I get the impressions mentioned above. Take a look at these quotes taken from this article in The University of Florida News.
Imagine a chip, strategically placed in the brain, that could prevent epileptic seizures or allow someone who has lost a limb to control an artificial arm just by thinking about it.
That's how the article begins. Is that the most you can imagine from the research that is being done as we speak? Chip implants are already being used to help control Parkinson's. Cochlear implants are helping deaf people hear. Now we're moving on to epileptics and amputees. That's excellent news, but it requires virtually no imagination at all, since these are merely the logical next steps. What would be a bit more imaginative would be envisioning chips that record and store all of our brains' signals and transmit them to a computer for analysis and decoding. I'm glad that there seem to be a few people who can see that actual potential of these developments, but why aren't there more?

“(Scientists have) realized that by going inside the brain we can capture so much more information, we can have much more resolution,” Sanchez said.

Really? They figured that out? How'd they do that? I think they figured that out in the 19th century.

The day may not be too far off when patients can control a prosthetic hand or leg just by thinking about it, Sanchez said.

Again, isn't this already happening? What would be new is when patients can move their prosthesis without thinking about it, just like you and I do. I don't think about moving my fingers to hit the keys that type out this sentence, I just do it. That's where we're headed.

Well, that's my rant for today. You can let me have it if you think I'm just being cranky.

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Anonymous said...

I've learned to expect very little when it comes to science reporters, and I still usually wind up coming away disappointed. Look on the bright side though, at least it's of better quality than the reporters with 'too much' imagination who get suckered in by, say, perpetual motion machines.