Sunday, July 24, 2011

You cannae break the laws of physics, Jim

When some reality-challenged transhumanist tells us that within two decades the human/computer interface will consist of injecting our brains with a swarm of subcellular-sized nanobots to stimulate neurons at the molecular level, Jerry Fabin is the person who comes to mind:
Giant Cell invades Earth
It is hard to decide where the gap between the transhumanist vision and the physical constraints of microscopic scale is greatest.* Transhumanists really seem to imagine cellular biochem as if scaled up to the size of a room you can walk into (I blame Will Burtin), with molecules made up of colour-coded balls-&-sticks like they are in high-school chemistry, so the nanobots can use visible-light wavelengths to identify the molecules that surround them.

Evan forbid that the nanobots should have to blunder around blindly, with no way of sensing their neighbourhood other than making and breaking chemical bonds, and no helpful "You Are Here" maps printed on each cell membrane to label it as a cell and help them tell their dendrite from their axon. Without such information, perhaps they would not perform any better than the chaotic, unplanned, thermal-noise-driven processes of normal cell biology; and that would clash with the central assumption that engineers can do better than four billion years of evolution at designing a rational biology.**

Not making this up:
“By the late 2020s, nanobots in our brain, that will get there noninvasively, through the capillaries, will create full-immersion virtual-reality environments from within the nervous system. So if you want to go into virtual reality the nanobots shut down the signals coming from your real senses and replace them with the signals that your brain would be receiving if you were actually in the virtual environment. So this will provide full-immersion virtual reality incorporating all of the senses.”
Going into all the conflicts with reality here would involve the Explaining Voice. Fortunately, a neurobiologist has already done the work, pointing out that the brain is not in fact full of empty space through which nanobots might float serenely like so many flying cars converging on the roof-top helipad; but rather is as tightly-packed as a holiday suitcase, with even the gaps between cells filled up with working parts. His like-minded commenters wonder how these myriad nanobots will be powered, and whether a working brain can handle their waste heat (given that the human brain is already pushing the cooling capacity of cerebral circulation, and has no margin for double-clocking).

Other commenters, more optimistic, argue that these concerns are nugatory if the brain in question is already dead, and the nanobots are only destroying it in the process of recording its condition (in order to revive its erstwhile owner's consciousness as a computer emulation). Readers may or may not find consolation in this.

It sounds as if the transhumanist (one Ray Kurzweil) is having belated doubts about the adequacy of existing human/computer interfaces like Dragon Systems.

Ray Kurzweil was disappointed by the absence of catsuited Raquel Welches within the brain's microanatomy.
----------------------------------------------------------
* On-line poll possibility!

** Do you think it could be a control fantasy? Let's ask Old Uncle Bill!

33 comments:

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

well, that's silly.

everyone knows nanites look like VHS tapes.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

...brain, that will get there noninvasively, through the capillaries, will create full-immersion virtual-reality environments from within the nervous system.

You scientists keep hosing down the dreams of the people!

P.S. Seems to me there's a lot of people already exhibiting signs of this phenomenon. Does FAUX Nooze qualify as a nanobot?
~

mikey said...

Well, hang on a minute. Don't you think we should maybe figure out how to build a petabyte scale persistent data store for unstructured data with a high level query language and some reasonable level of fault tolerance that costs less than a billion dollars?

'Cause it kinda seems if we can't do that...

Smut Clyde said...

the nanobots shut down the signals coming from your real senses

ITTDGY is onto something here.

Substance McGravitas said...

full-immersion virtual-reality environments

I think I am in one of those right now and it is not sunny enough. I WANT ANOTHER.

Smut Clyde said...

Discussions of full immersion are not intended to trigger Jennifer.

tigris said...

nugatory ... brain

Zombie Snickers!

vacuumslayer said...

How tiny is the person in the cell picture?

In my fantasy world, I control the music...ALWAYS.

vacuumslayer said...

everyone knows nanites look like VHS tapes.

Oh, I see there's yet another butthole on this blog making jokes I wanted to make. I HATE YOU SO MUCH, ZOMBIE!!!1

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

the nanobots shut down the signals coming from your real senses


Wait, you put nanobots in the Christmas Ale?

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

I HATE YOU SO MUCH, ZOMBIE!!!1

fast zombie is ignoring work.

vacuumslayer said...

That's only impressive if you're also drinking...which for some reason Auto Correct wanted to change to "dr. King.". In fairness to AC, it WOULD be impressive if you could also be zombre MLK.

Too soon ?

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

VS needs to tell her spies to LEAVE ME ALONE!

....a fair number of my recent projects are located on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

drinking is for later today. Afternoon, I have to go teach small children how to fight.

vacuumslayer said...

Do it Thunderdome style!!! Two children enters--one child leaves!!!!!

vacuumslayer said...

if you could also be zombre

Or zombie. Either way.

vacuumslayer said...

Two children enters

One of these days I will learn to proofread. And when I do I will be writing so goodly. It will be the goodest writing ever!!!!!!

I'll show you! I'll show you all!!

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

vs is flipping out.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Do it Thunderdome style!!! Two children enters--one child leaves!!!!!

usually we do it twelve children against one zombie.

tigris said...

Zombre is Spanish.

Kathleen said...

zombie teaches zombinos

Kathleen said...

also, something about nanobots. I dont' know. I didn't really get it.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

I dunno. I didn't really get it.

Kathleen nails the Riddled Mission Statement!

fish said...

Zombre is Spanish.

I thought it was John Russel's zombie.

Another Kiwi said...

Ahem, the Riddled Mission Statement is on this card thing that Smut gave to us all at that team building weekend thing in the garden bar that time;
"It is very hot today, we are going to sit under the olive trees and string beads and drink"

Snag said...

Did you do one of those trust exercises at your team building meeting, where one of you pitches over backwards and when nobody catches him he learns not to trust people? Or as we call it in the Snag household, a Life metaphor.

Another Kiwi said...

Um, there was a lot of falling over at various stages and also various japes about not catching other people. but the details are kinda blurry as the Shrove Tuesday Stout was being taste tested.

vacuumslayer said...

Kathleen nails the Riddled Mission Statement!

And Riddled's Mission Statement promptly files sexual harassment suit.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

usually we do it twelve children against one zombie.

they didn't stand a chance.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Riddled's mIssion statement was TOTALLY asking for it, being all drunk under the olive tree like that, wearing only poorly strung beads.

Smut Clyde said...

Traumatised beads are highly-strung.

Another Kiwi said...

Two bottles of Shrove Tuesday Stout and it's all string theory, I can tell you

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Or as we call it in the Snag household, a Life metaphor.

Snag! I did that exercise!!

I called it "starting a business".