Archive for the ‘Auto-Cerebral Re-Engineering’ Category

Move Over, Chase and Sanborn

Monday, February 11th, 2008

An article posted today at discusses “A Machine That Tastes Espresso, But Prefers Only the Good Stuff“. No report yet, though, on whether it has coffee qualia.

For those of you still lacking a robot to drink your coffee for you, Chris Chatham @ Developing Intelligence has a terrific post providing “Caffeine: A User’s Guide to Getting Optimally Wired“.

And of course, the current post’s title comes from Dennett’s “Quining Qualia“:

Intuition pump #7: Chase and Sanborn. Once upon a time there were two coffee tasters, Mr. Chase and Mr. Sanborn, who worked for Maxwell House [...] Along with half a dozen other coffee tasters, their job was to ensure that the taste of Maxwell House stayed constant, year after year. One day, about six years after Mr. Chase had come to work for Maxwell House, he confessed to Mr. Sanborn:

I hate to admit it, but I’m not enjoying this work anymore. When I came to Maxwell House six years ago, I thought Maxwell House coffee was the best-tasting coffee in the world. I was proud to have a share in the responsibility for preserving that flavor over the years. And we’ve done our job well; the coffee tastes just the same today as it tasted when I arrived. But, you know, I no longer like it! My tastes have changed. I’ve become a more sophisticated coffee drinker. I no longer like that taste at all.

Sanborn greeted this revelation with considerable interest. “It’s funny you should mention it, ” he replied, “for something rather similar has happened to me.” He went on:

When I arrived here, shortly before you did, I, like you, thought Maxwell House coffee was tops in flavor. And now I, like you, really don’t care for the coffee we’re making. But my tastes haven’t changed; my . . .tasters have changed. That is, I think something has gone wrong with my taste buds or some other part of my taste-analyzing perceptual machinery. Maxwell House coffee doesn’t taste to me the way it used to taste; if only it did, I’d still love it, for I still think that taste is the best taste in coffee. Now I’m not saying we haven’t done our job well. You other tasters all agree that the taste is the same, and I must admit that on a day-to-day basis I can detect no change either. So it must be my problem alone. I guess I’m no longer cut out for this work.

Chase and Sanborn are alike in one way at least: they both used to like Maxwell House coffee, and now neither likes it. But they claim to be different in another way. Maxwell House tastes to Chase just the way it always did, but not so for Sanborn. But can we take their protestations at face value? Must we? Might one or both of them simply be wrong? Might their predicaments be importantly the same and their apparent disagreement more a difference in manner of expression than in experiential or psy chological state? Since both of them make claims that depend on the reliability of their memories, is there any way to check on this reliability?

Brain Mods and Mind Mods

Friday, August 17th, 2007

Brain Mods at TimesOnline, here.

Mind Mods at Brain Hammer, here.


Take the Neuroscientists Bowling, Take Them Bowling

Wednesday, January 10th, 2007

Take the Neuroscientists Bowling, Take Them Bowling

Originally uploaded by Pete Mandik.

Flip Phillips, posting as Bongoherbert on my flickr thread, issues the following brilliant challenge: combine bowling with aggressive recreational trans-cranial magnetic simulation (TMS):

I have the following idea: Functional Neuroscience Bowling. Each team wears specially designed TMS helmets. Knocking down pins activates magnets in other team’s helmets- the more pins the more f’ed up the other team gets. Look out for the motor strip!

Sort of like beer-pong, but for the CNS set.

What say you? My lab against yours!

My lab will need to borrow helmets, but we’re in.

Related posts: Handheld TMS; God Bombs

Handheld TMS

Thursday, June 29th, 2006

The Neurophilosopher’s Blog reports on the development by Neuralive of hand-held TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) devices for the relief of migraines.

How long before hand-held TMS hits the streets for dubious recreational purposes?

Plasticity and the Perception of Higher Dimensions

Thursday, June 29th, 2006

Sacks and Siegel in Nature report on the recovery of steroscopic vision in a patient suffering from stereo blindness for 50 years. If cortex is indeed that plastic, I can’t help but ask, “why stop with only 3-dimensions?” Besides being cool, there might even be practical applications in training individuals to be able to see objects in spaces of four dimensions and higher. Data about a complex dynamical system might be handled more easily if its multidimensional state-space can be directly grasped by the human visual system. Things might “pop-out” of a data set that might otherwise be difficult to detect.

Questions arise as to how to train someone to pull this off. What does it even mean for vision to take place in higher dimensions? It might be useful to think about the geometry of photography for a bit here. The photography of a three-dimensional object involves a projection onto a two-dimensional surface. Stereoscopy is accomplished by integrating projections from a single 3-D object onto two different 2-D surfaces. By analogy, photography in the fourth dimension would involve the projection of a hypersolid onto points in a 3-D volume. 4-D steroscopy (”Hyperscopy”?) would then involve, I guess, the integration of projections of a single 4-D object onto points in different 3-D volumes.

One might question whether a person, being only 3-D, could possibly accompish hyperscopy, given that our irritable surfaces–our retina, etc.–are essentially only 2-D. The key to realize is that the dimensionality of our sensor arrays is potentially surmountable. The points in, e.g. our retina, can be mapped onto points in a volume–this is precisely what enables plain-old steroscopy in the first place. And our brains are capable of representing higher-dimensional state-spaces: gustory state-space is at least four-dimensional and olfactory state-space is six-.

Here then, in theory, is how to train someone to be hyperscopic. First, off, the 4-D objects are going to have to be computer generated. Second, computer simulated 3-D retina–3-D arrays of voxels–will be projected onto by the 4-D objects. Third, information from each of these voxels will be projected–via video goggles–to a dedicated portion of the person’s visual field. That is, the visual field will be partitioned into the same number of subregions as there are voxels in the 3-D computer-simulated retina. Fourth, equip the person with some means of rotating the 4-D objects (since having control over inputs seems to be important in perceptual plasticity). Fifth, train the person to perform 4-D object recognition tasks. Objects in the training set should include objects that can only be distinguished by their 4-D charactersitics.

If such a training regime could be successful executed, would it be 4-D vision? Would the hyperscopist have 4-D qualia?

How to make a Brain Hammer

Tuesday, June 27th, 2006


Originally uploaded by toybreaker.

Chase Wrenn of Conditional Material sent this to me:

Brain Hammer recipe

As served at the Julliard, a whiskey bar in Taegu, Korea.


1 1/2 oz peach schnapps

1/2 oz Bailey’s® Irish cream

1 dash grenadine syrup

1/4 oz Bacardi® 151 rum


Use a narrow, stemmed glass that’s not too tall. Pour peach schnapps in first, then using an inverted spoon, pour on a layer of Bailey’s Irish cream. Slowly drip grenadine through the Bailey’s, creating a “brain” effect at the bottom of the glass. Put another, thin layer of Bacardi 151 rum on top.

Fill a spoon with 151, light the alcohol, then carefully drip the burning rum down a long knife so that it lights the rum in the glass. While burning, drink entire beverage through a straw without stopping.

Set the Heart for Control of the Sun

Saturday, November 29th, 2003

Olaf Stapledon and Stanislaw Lem have described in admirable detail the possibility of an intelligent star: a sapient mass of incandescent gas. Lem provides certain details of how the creation of such a being might be effected. The basic gist is outlined in the story of a super AI, Golem XIV, who alters his own circuits to become ultra-minuaturized and ultra-energy-efficient to the point where the basic computational operation is a hydrogen-to-helium fusion reaction. Thus a star is born. Further improvement involves squeezing electrons into the atomic nuclei thus turning Golem’s brain into a small neutron star. Lastly, Golem bids adieu before taking the final step: astrocollaptic cognitive engineering. Further progress involves densities that eventuate in a singularity: a black hole. When Golem’s mind falls over the edge into the inescapable gravity well, not even he knows whether this is suicide or the next step in the evolution of intelligence.

The real truth is that for all the awesome power of gravitationally ignited fusion furnaces, they are utterly stupid. Not a single thought transpires between what they swallow and what they shit.

I love and find eerie the images from NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory. They render Sol into a brooding molten beast, not so much the source of our light as a super-heated blind idiot God of the darkness.

What follows is excerpted from Georges Bataille’s essay “The Solar Anus”

“The sea continuously jerks off. Solid elements, contained and brewed in water animated by erotic movement, shoot out in the form of flying fish. The erection and the sun scandalize, in the same way as the cadaver and the darkness of cellars. Vegetation is uniformly directed towards the sun; human beings, on the other hand, even though phalloid like trees, in opposition to other animals, necessarily avert their eyes. Human eyes tolerate neither sun, coitus, cadavers, nor obscurity, but with different reactions. When my face is flushed with blood, it becomes red and obscene. It betrays at the same time, through morbid reflexes, a bloody erection and a demanding thirst for indecency and criminal debauchery. . . . The terrestrial globe is covered with volcanoes, which serve as its anus. Although this globe eats nothing, it often violently ejects the contents of its entrails. Those contents shoot out with a racket and fall back. . .spreading death and terror everywhere. . . The earth sometimes jerks off in a frenzy, and everything collapses on its surface. . . This eruptive force accumulates in those who are necessarily situated below. . . .The erotic revolutionary and volcanic deflagrations antagonize the heavens. As in the case of violent love, they take place beyond the constraints of fecundity. In opposition to celestial fertility there are terrestrial disasters, the image of terrestrial love without condition, erection without escape and without rule, scandal, and terror. Love then screams in my own throat; I am . . .the filthy parody of the torrid and blinding sun. I want to have my throat slashed while violating the girl to whom I will have been able to say: you are the night. The Sun exclusively loves the Night and directs its luminous violence, its ignoble shaft, toward the earth, but finds itself incapable of reaching the gaze or the night, even though the nocturnal terrestrial expanses head continuously toward the indecency of the solar ray. The solar annulus is the intact anus of her body at eighteen years to which nothing sufficiently blinding can be compared except the sun, even though the anus is night.”

Warning: click on the following link only if you want to see the above solar anus logo tattooed on some dude’s butthole.