[extropy-chat] Neural Internet:Web Surfing with Brain Potentials

Keith Henson hkhenson at rogers.com
Wed Dec 13 02:30:44 UTC 2006

At 09:22 PM 12/12/2006 +0100, Eugen wrote:


>But anything beyond that, and I have a hunch it may require that, to mend
>e.g. a severed spinal cord would need nanosurgery, and if you can do that,
>you might want do a lot more than just repair. Isofunctional substitution
>(aka incremental or gradual in situ uploading) is within touching distance

Just for fun . . . .

Early in the second wet season Suskulan received a major system 
upgrade.    The upgrade went swiftly because Suskulan had stockpiled tens 
of thousands of liters of parts and fuel--most of it in the form of methyl 
alcohol--that he also was keeping in stock to be converted to fat if needed.

Suskulan's first serious patient after the upgrade was Zaba, a 12 year old 
who had been shot through her spine while working in a garden.  She was 
near death, and far beyond help by pre clinic standards, when she was 
placed in Suskulan's "hands."

As the nanotech mist enveloped her still body, Suskulan quickly evaluated 
her than told her parents:

"I can heal Zaba but it will take at least a week, perhaps as many as ten 
days.   She will not be able to move or speak at first, but you can talk to 
her spirit at noon tomorrow."

After they left Suskulan moved Zaba's body underground for better cooling 
and shorter connections to the mass of repair devices.  With a small amount 
of his attention he constructed an image of the repair table and Zaba out 
of utility fog including the ghastly wounds

This time the nanomachines didn't infiltrate her brain just to shut it 
down, though they did that and reversed the mild damage from shock and low 
blood flow.   The nanomachines mapped out all her neural circuits and cell 
connections.  Shortly before her parents entered the clinic the next day 
they tentatively restored consciousness, partly in her brain--which was far 
below the temperature needed to run on its own--and partly in the haze of 
nanomachines that were also simulating input in place of her eyes and ears.

"What happened to me?  Where am I?  Where is my body?" Zaba asked as she 
became conscious.  She was calm because the nanomachines were acting as 
tranquilizers.  Suskulan was listening to an interface to her mostly 
simulated motor cortex.

To give Zaba orientation Suskulan imposed on her visual cortex a wire frame 
image of the human form he usually presented then explained:

"You were shot, you are in the clinic Suskulan at the tata, and your body 
is under the clinic being repaired.  The clinic recently gained new powers 
to speak to spirits while their bodies are being healed.  The healing will 
take some time, even I do not know exactly how many days," he added,  "You 
were badly injured."

"My mother and father," Zaba started and then stopped.

"They brought you to me yesterday and are very concerned.  Your mother is 
holding the hand of an image of your body in the clinic.  Suskulan switched 
her vision to one in the clinic looking at the repair table and Zaba's 
parents.   "I can extend my power and let you use it to talk to them as if 
you were speaking through a telephone."

When her parents had entered the clinic Suskulan told them that Zaba could 
not move or feel anything yet, but if they wanted to speak to her spirit, 
it was nearby and he would try to invoke it.  Tomorrow her spirit would be 
back in her body.

Zaba had never used a telephone, the tata being well out of range of a cell 
tower but she knew what they were like.  Suskulan's wire frame image handed 
Zaba a cell phone image.  She reached out with her wire frame body and took 
it from him.

"Mother?"  Her voice came out of the speaker Suskulan used.


"Are you going to be all right Zaba?"

"Suskulan says I will be, but he doesn't know how many days it will 
take.  Can you get Tanko to finish weeding?

"I will do it myself."  Her mother said.  She did not want to risk her 
other daughter.  After a strange hour of visiting with Zaba's spirit 
through a speaker and holding the warm but still hand of Zaba's utility fog 
image her mother and father left promising to come back the next day.

When they left, Suskulan told Zaba that tomorrow she would be able to talk 
to her mother and feel her through the image.

He offered to let her sleep till the next day, but Zaba was curious about 
what had happened to her.

"Who shot me?"

"That I do not know.  However, the bullet fragments can be matched with the 
gun if someone else is shot or the gun is found.  It was an AK-47 or 
similar.  The bullet went through your spine."

Sensing that she wanted to know more, Suskulan generated a wire frame of 
her body and fed it to her visual circuits.

"The bullet entered the outer edge of your right nipple between ribs, 
passed through your right lung just missing your heart.  It hit the 4th 
thoracic vertebrae, shattering it and severing your spinal cord."  Since 
butchering animals was a common (but not common enough!) practice at the 
tata Zaba understood the picture she was seeing.

"That takes a lot of fixing.  Your body is being kept very cold so my 
healing spirits can work fast without burning up."

"How do they work?"

"Ah.  Such a simple question; such a *hard* answer.   The problem is you 
don't have the words; they don't exist in your language.  To understand how 
healing spirits work would require that you learn to read and learn another 

Zaba, like 99% of the Tamberma, was illiterate.   Not that learning to read 
in her language would have been much help.  The only literature in the 
language was a translation of the Bible, not terribly useful to people with 
traditional religions.

"Can you teach me this language and how to read?"  Zaba asked.

There was a short pause, which was really a very long pause for Suskulan as 
he projected what would happen and the unstated (though obvious) reason he 
had been given the upgrade.

"Yes" Suskulan said at last inflecting his voice to a sigh.  "But it will 
change you and the rest of the people of the tata in ways you cannot 
foresee and may not like. You can sleep through the nine or ten days it 
will take to finish healing you.  Are you sure you want to do this?

"Yes," said Zaba firmly, "I want to learn."

And thus was the fate of this particular tata determined, though in truth 
something like this had been ordained since Lothar and Mabo traded the 
clinic seed that became Suskulan for a fetish and before that when the 
Foundation organized the distribution of clinic seeds, and before that when 
an early clinic design was released under a creative commons license, and 
before that . . . leading back and back in time to when proto humans first 
discovered that a broken stone's sharp edge was just the thing to get at 
the meat under a hide.

Subjectively Zaba talked to her parents every ten days.  By the next day 
Suskulan had animated her image on the healing table so Zaba was able to 
speak through it and to feel her mother holding her utility fog image when 
she visited.  Zaba's real body was near freezing and 30 meters under the tata.

Her biological memory was being mechanically updated in her very cold brain 
and her consciousness was running in a swarm of fast nano 
computers.  Suskulan could have let her experience run even faster but he 
didn't want Zaba to get too far out of synch with her family and the rest 
of the tata.

Mechanically constructed memory is a very efficient way to learn.  With 
Suskulan's help Zaba learned to read her own language in a few hours, to be 
fluent in English in 15 days (subjective), to an eighth-grade equivalent 
education in 30 days and to a rough understanding of the physical and 
chemical background for nanotechnology by 60 days subjective.

Toward the end of her stay in the clinic, Zaba had an understanding of what 
the swarms of repair devices were doing to restore her spinal cord, 
patiently teasing out where the nerves should be reconnected across the 
gap, replacing cell walls and myelin in the destroyed section, rebuilding 
the shattered bone, muscle and connective tissue and fishing out the bullet 
fragments down to single atoms of lead.  She even had some understanding of 
how her mind was being supported in the nano computers that were acting in 
place of her very cold brain.

A few hours before her parents were to come on the last day, Zaba warmed up 
her body under Suskulan's guidance.  Her consciousness was continuous as 
the reactivated brain cells took over from the slowed down swarm of nano 
computers that had been simulating them.   The support and information 
umbilical connections withdrew and the holes in her skin closed seamlessly 
as Zaba started breathing for the first time in 9 days.

She sat up and coughed a few times.  Her physical body was different from 
what she had experienced for the past subjective 90 
days.  Better?  Worse?  She could not decide.  Zaba was delighted that 
there was no sign she had been shot.  She walked around the huge 
underground space, which had become familiar to her in the past 3 months as 
she shifted her virtual viewpoint among clouds of utility fog.  Zaba 
detected a few misconnected sensation nerves in one foot.  Suskulan said if 
her brain did not adjust to them in a few days she should come back and the 
clinic would fix them.

She was mildly distressed that she now had to voice talk to Suskulan, who 
appeared as a projection, instead of "talking" directly to his spirit in 
the spirit world she had inhabited.  Then she realized from her new 
knowledge there was a way she could if she took a bit of the clinic with 
her.  However, there wasn't much time to before her parents came.

"Can I come back to visit even if I am not hurt?" she asked.

"Yes.  Anytime I don't have another patient."

"May I take the clinic's interface with me?"

"There is nothing so addictive . . ." thought Suskulan.

"You may."  Part of the cloud of nanomachines that had just left Zaba's 
brain returned as a momentary haze.  Since they retained their memory of 
where they had been it was a matter of a few minutes before the machines 
reestablished their monitoring posts in Zaba's brain.

"I missed not being able to talk to you in the spirit world."   Zaba said 
without voicing.  A wire frame image in Zaba's visual cortex overlaid the 
physical projected image of Suskulan.

"Spirit talk does not reach as far as your garden."  Suskulan warned her.

Zaba lay down on the repair table that was now at the bottom of the 
elevator shaft.   The elevator lifted it into its place in the 
clinic.   Zaba was treated to seeing the rapidly thinning utility fog image 
of her body that had comforted her family for the last ten days before she 
merged into her image.

The nanomachine haze that had fogged her image and now her real body 
withdrew into the low table.

. . .

Keith Henson

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