I just spent the past week in Big Sky Montana participating in a five day conference on governing emerging technologies. There was far too much to begin to cover here, but I have to give kudos to the organizers David Guston and Rachel Ankeny for bringing together a broad group of speakers and contributors from across the globe. Three key emerging techs highlighted throughout the conference were neurotech, synthetic biology and nanotech.
Overall, it seems that the science and technology policy community (including industry) has the most comprehensive grasp of current and future emergent issues pertaining to nanotech. Developing dilemmas related to synthetic biology and its applications in biowarfare and implications for global security pose an ongoing, vexing problem for S&T policy. S&T policy issues related to advancing neurotechnologies seemed most fragmented with little coherence on what can or should be done with respect to the development and application of these technologies beyond therapy. Rightly so, many participants were quite alarmed with what could be on the neurotech horizon in terms of "perception shifting", neurolegal implications and the squelching of neurodiversity. Several participants, especially LSE's Scott Vrecko (who I met at last November's Neurosocieties conference in London), reminded the policy community to identity current issues in neuroscience rather than pondering "what ifs." That said, it was great to hear Natasha Schull's thoughts on the potential public policy implications of neuroeconomics research, George Khushf's presentation on the ethical implication of neural implants and Mike Chorost's pontifications on the future of neurodevice development.
August 14, 2008
Back in March of 2003, I blogged here about neurowarfare and how the latest national intelligence reports were completely missing the boat on neurowar.
It took a few years, but after Jonathan Moreno wrote Mind Wars, the US defense community woke up and put together a committee, lead by Moreno. Last year I had the opportunity to speak on the current and future state of neurotechnology with the National Research Council committee convened by the Department of Defense who were focused on Military and Intelligence Methodology for Emergent Neurophysiological and Cognitive/Neural Science Research in the Next Two Decades.
The committee's report, "Emerging Cognitive Neuroscience and Related Technologies," was released yesterday, highlighting some emerging possibilities including pharmacological landmines, lie detection, mind reading, cognitive enhancement and more. In my forthcoming book, Neurosociety, which is being published by St. Martin's Press in late spring 2009, I cover many of these ideas and more. Until then, I recommend reading the report.
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August 12, 2008
Benedict Carey at the NYTimes writes an entertaining piece today, While a Magician Works, the Mind Does the Tricks, which dives deeper into a recent article published in Nature Reviews Neuroscience that highlights how magicians "take advantage of glitches in how the brain constructs a model of the outside world from moment to moment, or what we think of as objective reality."
One great illusion explained in the article revolves around how our visual cortex processes stimuli has is seen in this trick by the Great Tomsoni. "The magician has an assistant appear on stage in a white dress and tells the audience he will magically change the color of her dress to red. He first does this by shining a red light on her, an obvious ploy that he turns into a joke. Then the red light flicks off, the house lights go on and the now the woman is unmistakably dressed in red. The secret: In the split-second after the red light goes off, the red image lingers in the audience’s brains for about 100 milliseconds, covering the image of the woman. It’s just enough time for the woman’s white dress to be stripped away, revealing a red one underneath."
The paper with many more explanations and links to video of a magician's performance can be found here.
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August 4, 2008
Just discovered this site which aggregates videos of surgical procedures including a seventeen neurosurgical procedures. So if you are interested in watching a microneurosurgical microvascular decompression in trigeminal neuralgia go to SurgyTec.
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