Re: First CYBORG lives...

From: John Marlow (
Date: Wed Apr 18 2001 - 22:19:53 MDT

Hey, I'm a techfan, and even I am very conflicted about this. Very,
very conflicted. This is going to explode. Maybe not over the
lampreys--but wait 'til they get to the cute-and-fuzzies. It's going
to get violent.


On 18 Apr 2001, at 12:29, J. R. Molloy wrote:

> Another version of the same story:
> Robot with living brain created in US
> James Meek, science correspondent
> Wednesday April 18, 2001
> The Guardian
> Researchers in Chicago have built a cyborg, a half-living, half-robot creature
> which connects the brain of an eel-like fish to a computer and is capable of
> moving towards lights.
> The device, developed at a research centre owned by Evanston's Northwestern
> University, consists of the brain stem from the larva of a lamprey, a
> bloodsucking fish, attached by electrodes to an off-the-shelf Swiss robot.
> In an arrangement reminiscent of the genesis of the Daleks, the living brain
> floats in a container of cool, oxygenated salt fluid.
> Placed in the middle of a ring of lights, the robot's sensors detect when a
> light is switched on. It sends signals to the lamprey brain, which returns
> impulses instructing the robot to move on its wheels towards the light.
> When all the lights are off, the robot stays still. When one of the robot's
> eyes is masked, the disembodied brain is temporarily confused, but learns to
> compensate.
> One of the researchers, Sandro Mussa-Ivaldi, said the work was a step forward
> in neural engineering. "There's an element of uniqueness in what we've done,
> particularly in the fact we've created a closed loop system, where the lamprey
> brain and the robot are exchanging information," he told the Guardian.
> Scientists are exploiting the immature lamprey's instinct to keep itself
> oriented the right way up in the water. In a cyborg arrangement, that
> translates into seeking light.
> The marriage of baby bloodsucker and Swiss engineering has little chance of
> conquering the universe as yet. Scientists can only keep the brains alive for
> a few days and are unable to stabilise them long enough to see whether they
> can remember anything.
> But they hope their work will ultimately lead to the creation of advanced,
> brain-controlled prostheses for people whose normal ability to control their
> limbs has been disrupted by a stroke or Parkinson's disease.
> "The focus of our work is not so much to create a cyborg as to create a tool
> for investigating the organisation of the brain," said Dr Mussa-Ivaldi.
> Other scientists are already moving towards the practical application of
> microelectronics to help the disabled.
> In Atlanta, scientists have implanted a tiny glass electrode in the cerebral
> cortex of a quadriplegic patient and coaxed neurons to grow inside. By
> attaching a transmitter, the patient was able to move a cursor on a computer
> screen by thought alone.
> The creation of the cyborg brings closer the advent of machines with animal
> parts. Advances in miniaturised electronics have inspired other scientists to
> try to develop devices with living biological components.
> The Washington Post reported that an Iowan entomologist, Tom Baker, has
> attached moth antennae, capable of detecting the smell of high explosives, to
> an electronic device which reads variations in the nerve signals sent out by
> the antennae when they pick something up.
> But the electronics are not sophisticated enough to distinguish one smell from
> another - so as yet the half-moth, half-chip machine isn't much use for its
> intended purpose, sniffing out land mines.
> Dr Mussa-Ivaldi said cyborgs were, in a sense, already all around us. "People
> wearing prostheses could be considered cyborgs," he said. "Some think that
> when we're attached to our internet connections, we're cyborgs."
> -----------------------
> Stay hungry, you'll live longer.
> --J. R.
> Useless hypotheses:
> consciousness, phlogiston, philosophy, vitalism, mind, free will, qualia,
> analog computing, cultural relativism
> Everything that can happen has already happened, not just once,
> but an infinite number of times, and will continue to do so forever.
> (Everything that can happen = more than anyone can imagine.)

John Marlow

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Mon May 28 2001 - 09:59:47 MDT