Entries from June 2009 ↓

Cybernetics and power

For a while I’ve wondered how to efficiently and unobtrusively power cybernetic implants. To me, the idea of having to replace batteries and recharge things that are part of my body is antithetical to the whole idea of implants. Implants should blend with organics and utilise the natural power sources within the body.

So, how much wattage does the human body produce naturally? Well, this is what the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) indicates, or more accurately, it indicates the average amount of energy expended on day-to-day activities… if you had a particularly active day then this would jump up higher.

There’s a BMR calculator here and according to it, my BMR is 1906 kcal/day. This works out to about 92 Watts… not much more than a light-bulb*!

In order to tap into this energy source, we need to adopt one of the energy currencies of the body. Some ideas might be glucose, ATP, or the electron transport chain (although the latter two are generally intracellular processes, so I’m guessing it’d be harder and potentially more dangerous to try these). Further, there should probably be some regulation of utilising the body’s energy, so that if these energy substrates drop too low in concentration then the implants should either switch off and warn their user that blood glucose levels are low.

As a result of this, it’ll give you an excuse to eat more delicious food to power your implants. Or, if you’re trying to lose weight, you could run the main processor overnight to encode your previous day’s memories to xvid – or regularly present the vocabularies of 5 foreign languages to your brain as you dream – hablo castiano un pocho 😉 )

But then, a negative consequence of having more implants is exactly this – your body will have to work harder to sustain them. Depending on the strength you place on metabolic rate affecting longevity, more implants could then start reversing the gradual increase in lifespan we’ve been seeing during the last couple of centuries. Of course, they’ll be plenty of others trying to come up with engineered ways to halt or reverse this metabolic aging.

Anyhow, I hope the cyberneticists are taking this all into account, because it first gives designers an idea of the wattage they have to play with and also because I’d really prefer to avoid having to plug myself in at night!

* 1906 * 4.18 kJ/kcal * 1 day / 8.64e4 sec = 92.2 Watts. And upon conducting research about this, NASA and HP labs have made the comment in the past that the human body produces about the same amount of energy as a 100 Watt light-bulb needs.

Reputation systems

Time is the one precious commodity. You can’t change what you do with it, you can’t rewind the steady increase of entropy. Even though it may decrease locally, across the whole universe it’s alway on the rise (at least as far as physicists have collectively determined… I’m sure that there are eccentric exception that think otherwise).

In relation to that, our attention is also precious. So what, and more specifically, who, do we pay attention to?

In Accelerando, by Charles Stross, the author introduces the concept of reputation markets, where someone’s reputation can be bartered a bit like a final currency.

I kind of like the idea. You could immediately get a sense of whether you should trust someone or not, and whether you want to hire them for a particular job. On a more day-to-day level, hooking in things like car registration numbers means that people could provide feedback on the driving on others… “sure you might be a nice person to work with generally, but behind the wheel you’re a nutter who also refuses to indicate out of round-abouts” (that might be my pet peeve along with tail-gaters and people that don’t know how to merge).

Of course, this is flawed first by the privacy implications and also by the fact the people are more likely to feel the need to report negative experiences than positive.