Good sci-fi is based on real science. Read about the current science that lead to the technology of The Demon Archives.


Dec 2012

Mind Machine Interfaces – Part 3: Minerva’s Implementation

Posted by / in Science / 3 comments

Having explained the basic technology and historical significance of MMI, we now move to current applications of this visionary technology. While these new developments are based on important breakthroughs made by pre-War scientists, it was Minervan researchers who have made those discoveries into usable products.

There were several important technological advances that made our recent breakthroughs possible.  In this report we will address the two most important advances, namely Organic Computing and Genetic Engineering, before reviewing the current state of the field.

Organic Computing

It is well known that many of Minerva’s Founders worked together in the Biological Computer Laboratory of the 1960’s.  In the Archives we read:

The Biological Computer Laboratory (BCL) was a research institute of the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. It was founded on 1 January 1958 by the then Professor of Electrical Engineering Heinz von Foerster. He was head of the BCL until his retirement.

The focus of research at the BCL was systems theory and specifically the area of self-organizing systems, bionics, and bio-inspired computing; that is, analyzing, formalizing, and implementing biological process using computers. The BCL was to the ideas of Warren McCulloch and the Macy Conferences, as well as many other thinkers in the field of cybernetics.

Until 1965, many researchers had a visiting professorship at the BCL: W. William Ainsworth (England), Alex Andrew (England), W. Ross Ashby (England), Gordon Pask (England), Gotthard Günther (USA, Germany), Dan Cohen (Israel), Lars Löfgren (Sweden), Humberto Maturana (Chile),Francisco Varela (Chile), Ernst von Glasersfeld (Germany), Stafford Beer (England), John C. Lilly (USA). Ashby (since 1961) and Günther (1967) received regular professors, and Löfgren Pask remained even after her visiting professorship in constant contact with the BCL.

The BCL was financed primarily by grants. Partly this came from military organizations such as U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy which, in the 1950s and 60s, possessed large budgets for basic research…With the beginning of the 1970s, military research funding became limited to projects that provided militarily useful results, and Heinz von Foerster was able not to identify adequate sponsors.

In 1974, the BCL was closed due to lack of research funds.

It is of note that even though the BCL was officially disbanded in 1974, the principal researchers were recruited by the Foundation, the pre-War precursor to Minerva, to continue their work in secret.  These scientists included the famed Humberto MaturanaFrancisco Varela, and John C. Lilly, among others.  They continued their research in secret throughout the rest of the 20th century, and into the beginning of the 21st century.  Their successes in creating bio-electric computers composed of living cells would prove to be vital to Minerva in the future.

During the dark times after the War, those Founders’ results guided Glaucus’ research to focus on artificial intelligence (AI).  Their efforts came to fruition when the first truly bio-electric computer was “born”.  Using a mixture of organic and synthetic components, the researchers developed a matrix of neurons and microchips that was able to learn like a human being and perform complex computational algorithms.  The initial system was hampered by a lack of plasticity in its neural connections and poor nutrient delivery via its pseudo-vascular system, causing some to deem it merely a simulation of intelligence.   Further research and the continued enhancements of these supportive technologies, along with improvements in AI training, have led to the current state of success in Minerva’s AI projects.

Genetic Engineering

Essential to the development of advanced AI were Minerva’s breakthroughs in microbial genetic engineering.  Microbial strains were engineered to produce the nanotubes, nano-vascular structures, and other nanoscopic components required for the development of organic computers.  Banks of specially engineering microbes are able to build high-fidelity artificial neurons in an very controlled process.  This allowed for the high level of purity and control necessary to increase the signal-to-noise ratio of the artificial neurons to a significant level.  It also has permitted the development of controlled multi-level nano-tubes structures, making possible the complex signaling and the billions of billions of neural connections required for true AI.

Minervan scientists have always looked to nature as a source of inspiration for their research.  This use of biomimicry has led to many breakthroughs in synthetic biology.  By studying  intercellular communication, quorum sensing, cellular membrane design, and many other “passive” systems that are often associated with higher functioning animals, researchers at Glaucus were able to reproduce these abilities in artificial cells and neurons.  This level of expertise quickly lead to the creation of a more efficient source of power for organic computing: ATP.  By engineering synthetic ATP synthase, ATP membrane-channel proteins, and functional ATP plasma transport vacuoles, they were able to create a system that didn’t require an external energy source.  This system, combined with the improved non-vascular structures and banks of enhanced mitochondria and chloroplasts meant that organic computers could run on little more than glucose.

The Result

Today’s AIs are bio-electrical computational systems with IQ’s greater than 300.  They are able to split their consciousnesses into multiple threads and can interact with both organic and electrical systems.  Some projects are underway observing the results when AIs are permitted to alter their own programming, while others are researching their theoretical ability to operated on a quasi-quantum level.  Under strict supervision, these AI’s are proving essential in the creation of the next generation of AI’s to be used in Project Oracle.

The latest results of this fusion of technology are embodied in the work of Dr. Aleem Chandan.  Chandan’s research is focused on the alleviation of complex neurological disorders using MMI.  Utilizing the precision of a few specially trained AI’s, he is able to insert a large quantity of carbon nano-probes into the brain that locate to specific neurons.  The AI is then linked to the probes and is able to begin the process of learning the patient’s thought patterns and mental activity.  This allows Chandan to isolate damaged sections, and to properly diagnose the faulty “wiring” causing the disorder.  His research is still underway, but by utilizing his technique he has successfully awakened two coma patients, and treated many patients afflicted with seizures or other debilitating mental disorders.

There are rumors of an Oculus project that is utilizing Chandan’s methods in conjunction with complete sensory deprivation to interrogate imprisoned suspects.  The theory is that blocking all the signals going into the brain creates a complete blackout of even the passive signals not commonly associated with senses.  It is rumored to produce a destabilizing effect which breaks down even the most trained and strong psyches of terrorists and spies.  The basis for these rumors lies in intercepted packet traffic on the base network, and an increase in access to some of the more esoteric Archived notes of the late Dr. John C. Lilly.  These rumors have been denied several times by both Oculus Interrogation and Dr. Chandan himself as having no basis in fact.

To date however, Dr. Chandan’s technique and other MMI research require the presence of an advanced AI to mediate the data stream.  The current bulk and power requirements of the current AI’s render this an “immobile” practice, but there is much speculation in the Glaucus department around the potential implications of Project Oracle on MMI research, due to the increased mobility and skill interacting with humans possessed by the Oracle AI’s.  Dr. Angeline Bellamí, the head of Project Oracle, declined to comment on our report, so while current cooperation is unlikely, perhaps in time a synthesis of Chandan’s and Bellamí’s research will allow for even more advanced MMI.

  • Honza Prchal

    The bit about Chandan and independent Oculus AI research are fascinating.
    Since these computers are born … I now wonder if Smrtbot’s/Koschei’s creator’s “family” is organic, inorganic, or both ….

  • Henrik Svantesson

    Curious, how do you measure the IQ of an AI? Is it even possible to achieve a score that high on the tests we have today, even if you solve every problem perfectly?

    • IQ tests would have to be drastically remodeled to try to measure the intelligence of a true AI. I think some of the more important elements of it would be their capability to problem solve things they have been exposed to before.

      And in the Oracle Project, at least, a huge part of their “intelligence” is actually emotional/empathic intelligence. Their ability to understand and work with their human partner well.