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.

Face the facts!

Billboard at bus stop: “Smoking causes 5000 deaths a year in New Zealand. Face the facts!”

What about aging – which is currently inescapably and is what really kills most people? Smoking just accelerates the accumulation of cell damage. Why limit ourselves to aging that’s caused by one particular vice? Breathing causes oxidative damage, and caloric restriction increases longevity. Should we also make billboards that say “Hyperventilation and eating more calories than necessary cause X deaths a year. Face the facts!”.

According to Wikipedia, New Zealand has a 7 in 1000 death rate. That’s 0.7 % or just over 30,000 (going by the current population figures as shown on Wikipedia). I find the attribution of 5000 of these being “caused” purely by smoking a slight exaggeration, but without them citing their sources, they could really make up any number they like.

Alternatively, I think it’d be more amusing to have a billboard that said either:

  • “Entropy marches relentlessly on! Face the facts!”
  • “You’re going to die! Face the facts!”

But y’know, SmokeFree New Zealand would probably change their marketing director if that happened. 😉

A pile of pills

So in the interests of sharing, and keeping a record for future reference, here is my current supplement stack:

Continue reading →

Off to the land of Oz

I’m not a particular regular updater with this particular blog (too many things have been demanding my attention lately), but I thought I’d drop a note to say I’ll be off the radar for a week or so…

I’ll be attending Burning man. I’m immensely looking forward to this as this is the first year in several that’s actually been feasible for me to get there from New Zealand. I’ll be with an Australian theme camp called Straya that a friend of mine put me in contact with, and who’ll also be there.

As well as Burning man, I plan to hang out in Washington D.C with Ben to talk about our work on OpenCog. Then I’ll stay in San Francisco for 5-6 weeks (end of Sep till start of Nov) to attend the Singularity Summit followed by the CogDev Workshop (an OpenCog coding jam, details to be finalised, but likely to be just after the Summit).

If you’ll be at any of these events and want to chat, drop me a line 🙂

Is Zen is the opposite of life?

Prompted by reading a chapter on Zen in “Gödel, Escher, Bach”:

Zen seems to be a sort of holism to the extreme… dissolving the self to become one with the universe and achieve enlightenment.

In some ways I see the use for this viewpoint while meditating and as a relaxation technique. In particular the concept that all the universe and time in static and immutable, and time and space is mere illusion, has a remarkably calming influence (at least for me). In some ways this reminds me of something I did that was somewhat odd as a kid. I think I first thought this around 5… I found time strange, and my memory of it also strange, thus I decided to imprint a distinct memory of that moment. I was sitting at the dinner table and I focussed on the fork I had. I can remember this moment, whereas many other parts of my early childhood are but a blur. There are other moments too, such as when I was riding a bike home in a ridiculously strong wind at age 11… again I committed this to memory because I reasoned “this is incredibly hard work, I feel exhausted! But in but 30 minutes I’ll be at home and this will purely be a memory. In fact, it may as well not be happening since this is a small fraction of my total experience at any time and will continue to get smaller as I continue in my life.”

Did other people do this too? Or was I just a somewhat strange kid?

Zen philosophy is somewhat relaxing and find kōans play novel games with the logic in our heads. As a life philosophy however, I think it’s flawed since the separation of us from the rest of the universe is what makes us human. In fact, it’s what life is all about. The localised increase in pattern and extropy within a system. Maybe Zen boils down to being an acceptance of possible the heat death of the universe when everything becomes a homogeneous soup? Which, if time is but an illusion has already happened and is the culmination of the universe’s evolution!

Before I sign off, time for a kōan:

A monk asked Zhaozhou, “What is the meaning of the ancestral teacher’s coming from the west?” Zhaozhou said, “The cypress tree in front of the hall”.
case #47 of the Book of Serenity

Zen also seems to have mastered the art of surrealistic humour.

The power of affirmations

What ever Tyler Durden from Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club may say, I am a beautiful and unique snowflake.

You see, your reality is your delusion. Whatever your outlook on life, yourself, or others, it’ll always be subjective. You may align your outlook with thousands or millions of other human beings, but their observation of the universe will also be subjective. In essence, you can believe what you want to believe. Obviously, if you stray to far from the collective reality then bad things will start happening, like bankruptcy if you believe you are materially wealthy beyond your means, or being committed to an institution if you start proclaiming yourself as Jesus. However, small deviations from what your mind (and especially your insecurities) might initially tell are actually incredibly powerful.

I’m a firm believer in the mind being part of the body. You can believe things about soul, or spirit, but your existence is intricately tied to how your body, and in particular your brain works. The brain is a neural network, neural networks work through updating the connections between neurons based on feedback of whether they were useful to activate at a certain time (in an extremely abstract and slightly incorrect summary). Another feature of the brain’s neural network, is that connections are established and only reinforce themselves if they are actually used. Thus if you repeat an affirmation, you are literally making yourself believe it. It doesn’t matter if you initially don’t believe it, the fact that the sentence… for example “I eat healthy foods”, might not apply immediately, doesn’t matter. Purely by parsing and processing THAT idea, it’s becoming part of your consciousness. If you repeat this 100 times a day “I eat healthy foods” becomes a stronger connection (indeed, VERY strong, since most ideas we have are not repeated so frequently unless we are studying or whatever) and more ingrained in your psyche. Later, even if you don’t consciously perceive that thought, it’s still being activated and used at an unconscious level.

Now, I’m not going to claim this will suddenly change you, but like anything worth doing, it takes time. In particular, intermittent learning is a lot more powerful than swatting for an exam and forgetting everything afterwards, and the same applies to affirmations. Doing affirmations for a couple of days won’t make much of a difference (although it’ll plant a seed).

Since most of this post has been me spouting knowledge which I’m too lazy (oops, this is a negative identification… I’m not actually lazy, I’ve just got more pressing matters to attend to then searching the net to support one of my mind dumps) to find references for, here is something related. The idea of affirmations could be made even more powerful by watching your brain in real-time as you make the statement, and compare it to the reaction of other statements you either believe to be stronger true or false as recently seen on TED.


Your mind can never change
Unless you ask it to
Lovingly re-arrange
The thoughts that make you blue
The things that bring you down
Only do harm to you
And so make your choice joy
The joy belongs to you

Massive Attack – What your soul sings

Without stimulus the mind is not alive

This is my hypothesis. The mind is not a object but a process, it takes information from the outside world and transforms it into pattern. That pattern is not the mind, it’s just the way the mind sustains itself from moment to moment. That pattern still exists when you die, albeit temporarily until decay sets in, but we aren’t alive because the mind isn’t receiving any new input.

Now that doesn’t mean a consciousness can’t be revived, the pattern is still there, and if the process can be restarted then I suspect the consciousness would continue as if nothing happen. One moment about to die, the next revived. This is essentially what proponents of cryogenics expect to occur.

Did I just contradict myself, by saying that consciousness can be revived from the pattern, even though I claimed the pattern wasn’t the mind? I don’t believe so. The pattern is the painting, the mind is painter. In humans, the painter is the physiological processes that generate the electrical signals shooting through our body and that update the neuronal structure in our brain.

OpenCog in 2008 Google Summer of Code

SIAI and OpenCog are recruiting people for Google Summer of Code. GSoC is a program that offers student developers stipends to write code for various open source projects.

Want to work on AI/language-processing over the Northern Hemisphere summer? Here are some of the ideas for projects proposed. Applications to Google open on the 24th of March.

“Artificialisation Of Culture: Challenges to and from Posthumanism”

Reading an interesting article by Kurmo Konsa, “Artificialisation Of Culture: Challenges to and from Posthumanism”. I particularly like the following quote, because it summarises a bit about me. I’ve always identified with being a transhumanist (even if the methods of improvement available right now are somewhat crude) but at the same time I’ve had flirtations with tattoos, piercings, body building, nootropics, crazy hair, acrobatics and other things…

In modern Western culture the view that the human body is a means of self-expression, and because of that the place for cultural experiments, is widespread. Body perforation, cosmetic surgery, physical training programs, etc., have been created to change the human body according to the requirements of the individual. This implies the objectification of the human body (in other words, the human body is turned into an object), but on the other hand individual human nature will be tied more closely to the body, and therefore what a person thinks and feels will be directly expressed in the body. Art, especially performance art, is actively engaged in defining the body and finding the borders of corporal existence.