Professor Kevin Warwick

A brief respite in a chaotic day, and a chance to talk about Professor Kevin Warwick’s talk here at BCU yesterday.

The turnout was not high, but those that did attend listened to someone who was clearly dedicated to his research area, and really does not deserve the poor press he’s received in some IT circles.

The talk focused on four specific areas, only loosely connected by the idea of ‘Cyborg’.

  • There was a brief discussion of his implant of an RFID tag just under the skin in 1998. Kevin acknowledged that this was a somewhat simplistic device, but has since heard that there are some night clubs in Europe where access to an exclusive area is only through an RFID tag which has been previously implanted. Mention was made of the ‘hundreds’ of emails he receives after a child disappears about what can be done to protect the vulnerable.
  • More interesting, and potentially most controversial area was that of a robot which was controlled to a limited extent by a biological brain over the Intranet. The brain ‘donor’ were neurons from the brain of a rat, fed by a serum. These were in turn connected via an Intranet to a more traditional ‘scurrying’ robot. The discussion was preceded by a clip of a young(er) Jeremy Clarkson talking to (and trying to goad) Kevin Warwick.
  • The most dramatic video Kevin showed was of a patient with Parkinson’s disease, who had implanted a device which provided ‘Deep Brain Stimulation’. The difference between when this device was turned off (unable to walk, shaking, disorientation) and on (able to walk, talk and even dance) was incredible. Kevin Warwick’s current work is focused on using neural nets to predict Parkinson’s-like behaviour, greatly extending the life of the batteries in the powerpack which are fitted into the patient’s chest cavity.
  • Finally Kevin returned to the neural implant he received a few years ago, which was connected to nerves in his arm. This potentially has the most significant influence, and whilst the occasional comment ‘My arm was the first living organism to have it’s own IP address’ may have been somewhat flippant, the research in itself was sound, and he is rightly proud of the achievements.

The question and answer session afterwards provided some stimulating discussion, in particular regarding the issues of these implants for people who may want to go through MRI scanners (as I did in 2006, to try and diagnose an issue I have with short term memory loss). The potential of a large amount of metallic and ferric objects in the human body hasn’t really been addressed, I know there are people with pacemakers who are unable to use MRI scanners (and curiously enough induction cooking hobs either, according to Ideal World TV!)

All in, a stimulating talk which I’m glad I took time out for.


1 comment so far

  1. […] a lecture given by Professor Kevin Warwick.  He came to the university back in Feburary, (blogged here).  Unfortunately the talk was very much a ‘reboot’ of his previous lecture, and whilst […]

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