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.
- 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
- Ebonics (Jive) dialect
- Dean Kamen's iBOT
- Q&A : Yurko hands over Invensys "reigns"
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
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
WIRED Aug. 2001 cover story Hockenberry: The Next Brainiacs
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
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
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.
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.
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
WIRED coverage of Siggraph
FinalFantasy (totally digital) movie website
New book : Boyes & Worthington
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.
eBusiness in Manufacturing
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"
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.
Buy eBusiness in Manufacturing
Popular Lyrics : The Wreck of the Mike Bonsignore
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.
- on the web
Complete lyrics The Wreck of the Mike Bonsignore
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.
Regarding Dave Korpi's translation of an item he liked into Jive dialect,
Reggie Waddell, Control Engineer [firstname.lastname@example.org] 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 [email@example.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. "
Ebonics website - explains the background of dialects
Center for Applied Linguistics - Ebonics Information Page
Ralph Mackiewicz [firstname.lastname@example.org] 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
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
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
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