Arthur C. Clarkes Braincap.

The Braincap is one of Arthur C. Clarkes predictions for the future.

Braincaps will directly link (bypassing ears, eyes, skin etc) the human brain
with seemingly unlimited computing power. Hooked in it will be possible to enter
whole new universes of experiences, real and imaginary.
According to Clarke, braincaps will be available from around 2025.

March 7th, 2010 - by Simon Laub - Email: slaub@csc.com


    ''Any sufficiently advanced technology, is indistinguishable from magic.'' [1] .
    Arthur C. Clarke.

Our world is quite different from the world of our grandparents. Common words today like ''megabytes'',
''hard drive'', ''back-ups'' and ''Googling'' probably would have been utterly meaningless to most people
only a few decades ago. Likewise , few of us can imagine what the world will be like,
when real history begins in the year 2100 (according to Clarke).

Clarke didn't claim to be able to see into the future (noone can do that [2]),
totally unexpected inventions or events can render predictions absurd after only a few years.
Clarke himself used the statement (made in the late 1940s by the then chairman of IBM),
that the world market for computers was five, to show that making predictions is a tough game.

Nevertheless, Clarke was quite good at the prediction game. And his list of predictions ([3], [4])
for beyond 2001 stands not only as an informed guess, it has also for decades
been an inspiration for coming scientists and engineers.

In the list, the braincap is predicted to be available from around 2025 (and in his novel ''3001''
noone can imagine humans without it ...)
And surely, the enhanced cognitive powers available with the braincap will be just like magic.
A transhumanist singularity now dream coming true ([5], [6], [7]).
E.g. with the ''braincap'' people could swap thoughts in the air: Instead of blowing a kiss to your
spouse at the airport, you could blow him or her an entire farewell letter, with photos and audio
clips. Etc. etc.

Braincap details.

When neurological research comes to an understanding
of all the senses, and direct inputs become possible [8]
(bypassing eyes, ears, skin etc.) people will begin
thinking about linking the brain directly to computers.

According to Clarke, the result will be the metal "braincap". Anyone wearing this helmet,
fitting tightly over the skull, will be able to merge
in real-time with other minds over the (inter)net.
Brain caps, Clarke explained, will also eliminate menial tasks:
"I think it's imminent," he said,
"For some simple things like switching lights on, or the air conditioner, or starting your car."

There is more:
a) The Braincap will be a boon to doctors, who can
now experience their patients' symptoms (suitable
attenuated).
b) It revolutionises the legal profession, as deliberate
lying, with the right settings on the braincap, will then
be impossible.
c) In education, the braincap will do away with the
traditional school system: In Clarkes ''3001: the Final
Odyssey'' astronaut Frank Poole (sent into the deep
freeze of space by the homicidal HAL [9]) is
revived and given a crash course in human history by
a brain cap, which pumps information directly into his
cerebral cortex. I.e. a braincap is fitted onto
Pooles skull and the history and customs of humanity
is downloaded into his brain.
d) In psychology, braincaps serves as an
early-warning system for psychosis. Mental
deviancies are treated immediately.
As a result, no one in the fourth millennia starts wars,
acts violently or has bad marriages.
Sure, marriages have by then taken the eminently
reasonable form of fifteen- year renewable contracts.
Still, braincaps can pick up on unfortunate thought
patterns and automatically send people to couples therapy.

Arthur C Clarke (1917 - 2008) [10].
Is acknowledged as one of the greatest science fiction writers of
all time. His writing spans six decades and more than 100 books.
In 1945 he was the first to propose using a network of satellites
in geo-synchronos orbit for telecommunication purposes.
A vision which became a reality in the 1960s.

His writing has inspired many. Among them Tim Burners-Lee,
who was inspired by ''Dial F for Frankenstein'', when he
(and others) invented the world wide web.
--- As a teenager, Berners-Lee read science fiction voraciously
and was fascinated with Clarke's short story
''Dial F for Frankenstein'', in which computers are networked
together to form a living, breathing human brain
[11] ---

For 2025 Clarke predicted the braincap. That gives the brain
direct access to seemingly unlimited computing power.
Wearing this close-fitting helmet also makes it possible to
enter a whole new universe of experiences, real and imaginary.
According to Clarke: One factor that might delay its general
adoption is that the wearer would probably have to be completely
bald to use the tightly fitting helmet.
So wig-making could become really big business in a few decades..
Whatever way they are eventually designed, advances in neurological
understanding (to make direct links to the brain, by-passing eyes,
ears etc.) and advances in computer technology should make
braincaps a reality by 2025 [12].

 


The braincap could indeed be the ultimate virus scanner. On constant lookout for mind viruses.
And obviously, there must be a privacy issue or two with this scenario!?
It gets worse though. Surely, people will want all/some of these biotech enhancements,
to alter their personalities, boost intelligence, and live longer healthier lives ([13], [14])
However, as braincaps becomes more and more integrated with human brains
buggy braincap software might be among the worst mental diseases of the future?
BTW. Who will be doing Quality Assurance on braincap software?
And what kind of security will there be on links between braincaps and
the skynet, braincaps are hooked in to?

Indeed, with a virus scanner, working inside the braincap, on the lookout for dangerous
thought patterns and behaviours, future systems might conclude that humans running
around out there IRL is just way to dangerous for their own good?
Perhaps, it will be concluded that is much better to let human brains
(use telepresence [15] to) run avatars.
With the actual human brains stored away in some safe environment?
Or perhaps, braincap enhanced life in the 21st century will only be little smarter,
but just as dangerous as it has always been?

More on:
Machines like us [16].
Citizen cyborg [17].



-Simon

Simon Laub
www.simonlaub.net

Future Minds index at:
Future Minds and NeuroSky.

Posted on Usenet:
Newsgroups: rec.arts.sf.written,rec.arts.sf.science,comp.ai.philosophy,comp.society.futures
Followup: rec.arts.sf.written
From: Simon Laub
Sent: Sunday, March 14, 2010 12:07 AM
Keywords: Arthur C. Clarke, BrainCaps, Intelligence, Mind-Computer Interface, Singularity
Subject: Arthur C. Clarkes Braincap

Posted on Posterous and Blogspot medio March 2010.
Posterous: [18] - Blogspot: [19].