Ultimate Clock, Calendar, Computer, Word Processor

It seems certain that, some day, computer memory will be embedded in human bodies. I think a variant of this is already available! When a mosquito stings you, you immediately know WHERE to slap! Your brain knows WHICH pain sensor was affected, out of many thousands that you have. The same is true if something hot or cold touches your arm. A vaiant of a wristwatch seems obvious.

Consider something like a wristwatch which has a pattern of 16 tiny heating elements on the back side. The device contains a computer. TWO of the tiny heating elements would heat up to indicate the digit ONE, and the skin on the arm under the device would have nerve fibers sense those two, and the brain would be AWARE that it should recognize a digit ONE. A DIFFERENT pair of the heating elements would heat up to indicate the digit TWO. And all the other single digits.

Say that the person is interested in knowing what TIME it was. The computer in the device has a standard digital clock, and it sends a SEQUENCE of FOUR DIGITS by the heating elements. No visual digits would be seen! But the brain would receive the digits ONE, ONE, FOUR, and SIX, and it would immediately know that the current time was 11:46 am. The person's mind would immediately and automatically KNOW the exact time! The device could also send FIVE signals, where the first would indicate that the DATE would follow, and then the MONTH and DAY digits would be sent to the brain. THREE signals might then follow, with the first one indicating the local Fahrenheit temperature, followed by two digits of the current value. Then the Indoor Relative Humidity. Then the Heart Rate, Respiration Rate and countless other useful bits of information.

The possibilities which might then exist are too significant to ignore, and if enough researchers try to accomplish this, eventually it figures that they will succeed.

Imagine if a six-year-old kid could have a minor operation where a penny-sized computer might be embedded in his/her arm, and as soon as his nervous system and brain learned how to benefit from it, all the knowledge of geography and history and science and math and all foreign languages and the ability to play every game and sport and musical instrument would become available?

There would then be little need for any child to go to conventional school! Or College!

We already know that nerve signals move around through the human body as bioelectric signals. Having a computer create suitable electric signals, to behave as though skin nerve signals could be duplicated would be very easy to do. Interfacing the computer connection with some (interneurons) nerve fibers could also be rather simple. This might be useful to greatly speed up the performance of this interaction with the nervous system and the brain.

Note that a paraplegic person might also be able to receive signals from the brain and then create signals in an arm/hand to clench a fist or to hold a pencil!

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There are two major difficulties in accomplishing this goal. Biological nerve cells generally only carry bioelectric signals at around 200 mph within the body, and signals must generally be separated by at least a foot distance along the interneurons, because the chemical reactions which must occur between interneurons take a finite amount of time to occur. This suggests that a single interneuron could never carry more than about 300 bits of information per second, or in more familiar terms, about 40 characters per second. In typing terms, that would be about 8 words per second or 500 words per minute, which is not a lot faster than people can type!

So even though the computer memory chip might contain many billions or even trillions of bytes of data in it, there would be a tremendous limitation regarding how fast any desired information might be accessed to the brain. So even if the chip contained the names of every town in France, it might take many minutes for that 400,000 bits of data to be able to be transferred into the nervous system such that the brain could be aware of all that information. From the estimates given above, it would take about 1300 seconds to get the names of all those towns to the brain, or more than 20 minutes. So even though the computer chip CONTAINED massive amounts of data, virtually none of it would normally be accessible. If an IMAGE of the Mona Lisa was requested (somehow!) a good quality image (50kB) might also involve twenty minutes for the brain to fully access. A problem!

Multiple interneuron paths might improve that, but even if 20 parallel interneuron paths were used, that good quality image of the Mona Lisa might still require a full minute to appear in the brain.

The other major problem I see is regarding getting the brain to be aware of the computer memory, and then to learn how to send appropriate Request signals to it, such as regarding the rules and strategy of the game of chess. The brain would also have to learn how to receive and use the information which was sent from the computer memory.

I have a preliminary idea regarding a very crude attempt at this concept. Imagine a relatively conventional small computer, which only had one capability, that of knowing the exact time. Imagine that such a computer is strapped to the forearm of a person. Imagine that sixteen DIFFERENT tiny areas of skin are in contact with the backside surface of the computer.

Now imagine that one of those areas is in contact with a tiny area on the computer which might HEAT or COOL the skin area, or PRESS on the skin area, or APPLY a small amount of ELECTRICITY or apply a pinprick to that area, SIX TIMES over a period of one second, and then does nothing for the following MINUTE, and then repeats the sequence of six stimuli, each minute, all day and night.

The premise here is that it is now the MONTH of June, and SIX is the indication of that month. Could or would the brain eventually come to learn that a rapid sequence of six stimuli from that particular nerve sensor indicated that it was now June? That when that changed to SEVEN stimuli in that sequence, it meant that the month of July had begun?

The other five tiny areas of skin under the computer body would be used to try to transfer YEAR, DAY, HOUR, MINUTE and SECOND to the brain. Medical Researchers know exactly where nerve sensors are, and so these six areas on the computer could be arranged to be in contact with six different nerve sensors. The premise is then that the brain would receive signals from at least five of these EXISTING nerve sensors (not including the seconds data). Would the brain be able to learn how to interpret what these data streams meant?

I tend to think that it could and would.

However, there IS a major problem! The human nervous system is arranged so that the brain does not get overwhelmed, such as when a severe accident amputates a leg. When that first happens, the brain receives constant and severe pain signals from thousands of different nerve sensors. What the brain does is interesting! After some minutes of constantly receiving the SAME repetitive signal from that interneuron, the brain DECIDES to gradually ignore all future nerve signals from that neuron. This IS a survival response, which then allows the brain to focus its activity on the other parts of the body, to possibly deal with trying to get away from a bear. Otherwise, if the brain would forever continue to receive the massive pain information from that now-missing leg, it might not be able to adequately deal with the bear.

You can confirm this, and you may have already done so! Put your finger into a cup of very hot coffee, and you will immediately feel some pain from the excessive heat, but the pain fades fairly quickly and within a minute, you will feel virtually no sensation of heat in that finger! The heat is still there in the coffee! It is just that your brain decided there was minimal benefit from continuing to receive a lot of pain signals from that finger, and so the brain effectively NUMBS the finger! The same is true due to cold ice water. Also from if you lightly tap on your finger with a hammer, where after some time, you stop feeling pain.

This standard process which the brain commonly uses MIGHT come into effect here. Is a one-minute delay before repeating the sequence of stimuli long enough to keep the brain from deciding to ignore signals from that nerve ending? Maybe a five-minute delay might be necessary instead, or even longer.

A related subject might be that the TYPE of stimuli might need to be changed, again, to keep the brain from deciding to ignore signals. So it might be necessary to have the computer change between creating hot, cold, pressure, electricity or suction, either consistently or occasionally.

It seems to me that such an experimental small computer, which might even appear to look like a wrist watch, might send assorted signals to the brain, just to see if the brain might decipher what the repeated stimuli meant! The person would likely be minimally aware of the skin sensations, and maybe a conscious effort at getting the brain to understand the significance of the HOUR. IF that person's brain can learn the meaning of each of the specific data streams, then there would never be any need to look at a clock or watch again! The brain would KNOW the current time!

And if THAT is possible, then maybe a more advanced computer, such as a four-banger calculator, or even some computer memory, might become compatible with a human nervous system.

This presentation was first placed on the Internet in Aug 2012.

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C Johnson, Theoretical Physicist, Physics Degree from Univ of Chicago