JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 57 : August 17, 2001

Keeping an eye on technology futures.
Business commentary - no hidden agendas.
New attitudes, no platitudes.
Stay e-tuned....

  • Brain-machine interface
  • Evolution of the TechnoHuman
  • Siggraph this week - movie graphics & special effects
  • Book: eBusiness in Manufacturing
  • Lyrics: The wreck of the Mike Bonsignore - on the web
  • eFeedback:
    • Ebonics (Jive) dialect
    • Dean Kamen's iBOT
    • Q&A : Yurko hands over Invensys "reigns"

Brain-machine interface

When you think John Hockenberry, you think wheelchair - he lost the use of his legs 25 years ago. His latest article in the August 2001 issue of WIRED magazine deserves reading for some of the groundbreaking material it contains regarding direct connections to the human brain.

John Hockenberry writes: "Electronic gadgets have stepped up their invasion of the body. Our concept of what it means and to be human is wide open to debate." He feels technology is really a form of puppetry, making inanimate things move and behave like people. Technology-assistance for disability is the same, but with a willing, still-human object.

Hockenberry himself is trying to merge available body functionality (arms, hands, torso, neck, head) with a small arsenal of customized machines (wheelchairs, grabbers, cordless phones, remote controls). He feels it is identical to an infant's task of developing coordination with near-zero functionality of legs, arms, and muscles.

A pioneering group of neuroscientists at Emory University in Atlanta have created a completely functional interface using electrodes surgically implanted in the brain. In 1996, their success with primates convinced the FDA to allow human tests. They acquire signals from inside the brain to manipulate objects in the physical world.

With this brain-machine interface, a paralyzed subject was able to move a cursor to choose screen icons, spell, and even generate musical tones. When thinking about facial movements, and as he manipulated the cursor, doctors could see the paralyzed subject's cheeks move and his eyes flutter, which was a surprise. Not that his paralysis was receding, rather that his brain had tapped into capabilities that were dormant.

The fact that the cursor is indistinguishable from almost any other prosthesis raises an important philosophical question: Because of the implant, is the computer now more a part of the subject than one of his own paralyzed arms?

In the last issue of eNews (August 10, 2001) we mentioned Hockenberry's interaction with Dean Kamen's iBOT wheelchair. Hockenberry's first impression of the iBOT was not positive - he felt it was a cumbersome, complicated thing. But now he feels that this is perhaps the best example of a technology solution that interacts directly with the brain. But watch the iBOT balancing, making little rocking motions to keep it upright, and you feel as though you're in the presence of some humanoid intelligence.

With the iBOT, disabled users discover an eerie and unanticipated brain-machine interface. They are pleased when they go up stairs, and move over sand and gravel, and up and down roadside curbs. But when they stand up and are eye level with another person, when they feel what it is like to balance, every single one of them started crying.

Hockenberry believes that people who use the iBOT in its two-wheel balancing mode are literally feeling the experience of walking, even though the machine is doing the work. He says: "If you could get an MRI picture of the balance center of the brain of a disabled person who goes up on iBOT's two wheels, I bet you'd see some lights go on. I'm convinced the brain remembers balancing, and that's why people feel so much emotion."

This raises a fairly revolutionary point about brains and the physical world. Bodies are perhaps just an evolutionary solution to issues of mobility and communication. By this argument, the brain has no particular preference for any physical configuration as long as functionality can be preserved.

Click WIRED Aug. 2001 cover story Hockenberry: The Next Brainiacs

Click MSNBC Story on iBOT (with photo)

Evolution of the TechnoHuman

I saw a movie (I forget its name) set in the old West - a still young gunfighter was becoming short-sighted and losing his edge. Then an optician whom he befriended gave him spectacles, and he recovered his prowess with a gun. He was a technohuman. If you have glasses, or have a pacemaker (like Dick Cheyney) or perhaps a hearing-aid, then you too are a technohuman. It's just a matter of degree - and time - before humans get more and more techno-aids. So, what is the percentage at which one becomes truly a "technohuman" ?

The World Future Society - Futurescope 2001, was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, July 30 & 31, 2001. Over 1,000 futurists attended, from around the world.

My own presentation was on: "Evolution of the TechnoHuman". Evolution is speeding up exponentially. In this next century, technology speed-up will continue with major evolutionary consequences. History makes it evident that man-with-tool inevitably survived and conquered man-without. Technology has caused and will continue to cause significant societal change.

Click Summary of my "TechnoHuman" presentation

The presentation was reported by The Star Tribune Minneapolis, MN. Tuesday, July 31, 2001, which gives an excellent layman's summary.

Click Star Tribune: Your techno-future holds much promise

On the same theme, you might like to review my recent article, written for the August 2001 issue of the San Diego Mensan.

Click Intelligence in a new age

SIGGRAPH - movie graphics & special-effects

In a recent eNews (July 20, 2001) we discussed Final Fantasy, the first major totally digital movie - no human actors.

A new generation of computer interface technologies and Hollywood special-effects wizardry took center stage at this year's Siggraph 2001 international show, in Los Angeles, CA. August 12-16, 2001. My special representative attended (my son Chris Pinto, who is studying computer graphics at the Academy of Art in San Francisco).

At a time when many other technology conferences are faltering or dying, the world's premier showcase for cutting-edge computer graphics, art and experimental interactive technologies is doing just fine in now its 28th year. The lineup included more than 300 international exhibitors, a gallery of more than 90 works of digital art, a computer animation festival of 118 works (culled from a record 678 submissions), an exhibition of emerging technologies, and 18 panels exploring topics ranging from synthetic humans to the role of virtual reality in mental health.

Notice the last two topics. Just as brain-machine interface helps disabled people, virtual reality treatment of mental health is a new and significant science.

Click Siggraph website

Click WIRED coverage of Siggraph

Click FinalFantasy (totally digital) movie website

New book : Boyes & Worthington
eBusiness in Manufacturing

An excellent book by good friends, Walt Boyes and Shari Worthington, is out: eBusiness in Manufacturing: Putting the Internet to Work in the Industrial Enterprise - ISBN 1556177585 - available from ISA Press and soon from Amazon and others.

Dick Morley, father of the PLC, and co-author of The Technology Machine: How Manufacturing Will Work in the Year 2020 says : "A thought provoking, well executed book which tackles the tough problems in e-business. Certainly a guidebook for the enterprise of today. Covers the basics, through implementation, and into technology. The reader won't get lost with this roadmap, though. Cover your assets, read "e-Business in Manufacturing" and learn."

The book tells how business in the future could, should and WILL be. Buy a hundred copies of this book, and distribute them to your employees, suppliers and customers. Relates all the latest advances of eBiz and eCRM to the Instrumentation, Manufacturing and Automation world.

Click Buy eBusiness in Manufacturing

Popular Lyrics : The Wreck of the Mike Bonsignore
- on the web

A Honyewell employee (name withheld by request) wrote lyrics to be sung to the tune of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot. I mentioned this in the latest JimPinto.com eNews and there have been a lot of requests for the complete 6 verses.
    The Wreck of the Mike Bonsignore
    The legend lives on from the management on down
    Of the failed merger with GE.
    The deal it was dead and many have said
    It was killed by a man they called Monti.
    With an annual gross of twenty-eight billion or more
    Honeywell was lively and kicking.
    But many quiet men with greed cold in their veins
    Saw a business ripe for the picking.

Click Complete lyrics The Wreck of the Mike Bonsignore


Regarding Dave Korpi's translation of an item he liked into Jive dialect, Reggie Waddell, Control Engineer [reggiewaddell23@hotmail.com] wrote:

    Jim, I'm a fan your newsletter, but I felt a bit disappointed when I read the "Jive Dialect" in your last newsletter. It was offensive to me and I'm sure to a number of your subscribers. Professional people do not converse in this way. I look to your newsletter for insightful information rather that racial stereotypes."

Pinto Point : Sorry, Reggie. This was NOT meant to offend anyone. As you may know, Ebonics (formerly known as Jive) has its origin in the rural and southern United States. It is officially recognized in the US as a language in some public schools (where English may be taught as a second language). You'll note that Dave Korpi LIKED the article I mentioned, and translated it to Ebonics with respect.

Mathieu van den Bergh [mathieu-van-den-bergh@home.com] sent this Euro-English for our reading delight:

    "As an aktif IEC kommitee member, I haf to deel with tese tings. Ju are wan of te fu peeple tat understant tis kaind of konsern, because ju travelt often to Europe an England. "

Click Ebonics website - explains the background of dialects

Click Center for Applied Linguistics - Ebonics Information Page

Ralph Mackiewicz [remccm@home.com] wrote about Dean Kamen's iBOT:

    "Someone asked if I heard about IT and what I thought. I don't watch TV news, so I hadn't heard of IT at the time. My initial thought was: If it was that special they would never pre-announce it and then tell us nothing. Yeah, I know about the drama this creates. But it smacks of hype. A real innovation of that scale wouldn't need this kind of staged hype.

    "When you later informed me of some notable IT endorsements (e.g. Metcalfe, etc) by proven achievers I was only slightly intrigued and remained unimpressed. After seeing what Dean Kamen has done with iBOT I am now waiting anxiously to see what wonders IT could bring. This iBOT is incredible. I laughed out loud with joy when that iBOT stood up and climbed stairs. The tragic shame of this is that people that need this are denied their freedom to purchase this machine by a bunch of nanny state bureaucrats who have to be appeased first. What a shame!

    "If IT is truly as revolutionary as it sounds I hope that its value is large enough to overcome the political power that will probably be brought against it."

An Invensys employee reported that a Q&A had been sent to all senior employees (2 August 2001), to be used in response to customer questions regarding recent bad news about the company’s profit warnings and CEO change.

Of note is the answer to this question: Why did Allen Yurko decide to "retire" as CEO of Invensys?

Answer (exact quote):

    "Allen Yurko felt that it was the right time to hand over the reigns following the longest tenure for a Chief Executive in the automation and controls sector - eight years. He believes that it is time to bring a fresh approach to our markets, build support for his strategy with the financial community and lead Invensys as it comes out of the current economic downturn."

Perhaps Yurko himself wrote this? Note the two "Freudian slips": ...time to hand over the "reigns". And, ...Yurko believes that it is time to "build support for his strategy".

Now that he has taken over the "reigns", is Haythornthwaite building support for Yurko's strategy? Well, it turns out that he just bought 100,000 shares of Invensys at 84p. So, that is perhaps the rock-bottom price at which he feels he can sell Invensys. Mind you, his stock options are probably below 84p, so he wouldn't be out-of-pocket anyway. And, in any case he is a bit wiser than Yurko and O'Donnell who bought at a significantly higher price to demonstrate their confidence in the declining stock.

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