“Transmission of intelligence”

Reading: “Will There Be Condominiums in Data Space?” by Bill Viola.  Video 80(5):36-41. 1982.

The notion of “data space” has changed drastically with the advancement of technology. I enjoyed Viola’s examples of data space in history as elaborate memory systems, “mnemo-technics.”  My example of data space highlights the brain’s amazing ability to adapt to new information.

In the 1980s, with the possibility of merging computers and video, Viola writes about the potential shift from models of the eye (video) and ear (music) to models of of “thought processes and conceptual structures in the brain.”

It was Nikola Tesla, the original uncredited inventor of the radio, who called it “transmission of intelligence.”  He saw something there that others didn’t.  After all these years, video is finally getting “intelligence,” the eye is being reattached to the brain.

In fact, there is a literal example of “the eye being reattached to the brain” in neuroscience.  Instead of connecting videos to computers, researchers are connecting brains to computers.  For example, neurophysiologist Andrew Schwartz at the University of Pittsburgh has made headway for brain-controlled prosthetics in a long-term study.

The Modular Prosthetic Limb was designed by Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory and funded by DARPA.  From The Thought Experiment.

“Neuroprosthetics” have huge implications for people paralyzed by injury or disease (such as ALS).  While brain-computer interfaces may still sound like science fiction, the area of research has been around for decades.  In the early 2000s I learned about Johnny Ray, who suffered a stroke in 1997 that left him with locked-in syndrome where he was unable to move or speak.  In a study at Emory University, a relatively simple surgery allowed him to to move a computer cursor with his thoughts, giving him the power to spell using a visual keyboard, communicating for the first time in years.  Just like mneumo-technics, which allowed people to manage pieces of information, these brain-computer interfaces have the potential to restore physical control by a remapping of movement in the brain.


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