Friday, August 12, 2011

Plugged In Skin

I'm not much for personal adornment, and probably because I'm beautiful enough as it is. I don't wear jewelry. The thought of getting a piercing has never even crossed my mind. I've never even considered getting a tattoo. The only kind of tattoo I'd even consider getting was either a) an animated tattoo, or b) a wireless tattoo device.

As regards a), I'd like to claim credit for the idea, but Ray Bradbury's Illustrated Man precedes my thoughts on the matter, and I'm sure someone watching the first animated movies or shorts thought of it long before Ray. And I'm not sure what you would call an animated tattoo. Would it be an anitat? Or a tattoon? I prefer tattoon.

As regards b), I think I can claim credit for it, as I had the idea in the early 80s. But then again, I'll bet someone like John Brunner or Johnny von Neumann already thought of it back in the 50s or 60s. In any case, when they first started talking about power-gloves or data-suit interfaces, or plugs in your skull that you could hook cables up to your computer, I had to laugh. The gloves or suits were just too clunky and old-fashioned, reminiscent of the old futurist vision of a zeppelin in every garage. Who's gonna walk around in a squinky neoprene suit covered in wires. That shit is just so stupid looking, or as the kids would call it, so gay.

And as for plugs in the head, ignoring the very real and constant threat of infection pathways direct to the brain, anyone who has considered a plug in the head has never spent much time around little kids.

"What the-? How the fuck did this gum/pencil eraser/crayon/jellybean/etc. get into my plug? Goddamit! KIDS!!!"

Yeah, forget the plugs. I had always figured it would be clothing, or a wearable patch, or a tattoo. Given that electronics was bound to get smaller and more sophisticated, I'd figure on waiting. Plus, we've found out that there's more than just the five Aristotelian senses to get data in and out of the human brain.  For example, SQUIDS (sensitive magnetometers) would just get better and better at reading the electrical impulses of the human brain, and a version of TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) would just get better and better at manipulating neuronal signals to transmit data into the brain. Throw in the promise of the wireless revolution, and you end up not being plugged into anything. (So forgive the "plugged in" title above, but then again, why is a magazine devoted to futuristic devices called "Wired"?)

So, I figured on some kind of a propellerhead beanie would be the way to go. Plus, then we find out that all sorts of formerly brain or organ centric sensor cells are spread throughout the human body. Thus tastebud cells can be found in the lungs and the small intestine, and light sensitive cells are strewn about, not just in the eyes, but pretty much everywhere! Let's face it, the natural electronics embedded within the human body is far more sophisticated, adaptable, and quite frankly, unexplored (think of the huge relatively untapped promise of biofeedback) than that of the currently crude electronics of private industry. (Yes, yes, I know about shit like quantum dots and nanotech, the fact is we have not even begun to discover just exactly what our bodies are capable of).

I suspect the skin would be a vast interface, and so, again, my smart money was to wait - the same way you wait on every other piece of sophisticated technology jumping its way up the S-curves cascade series.

Hey, there's another problem with implanted electronics, whether plugs or tattoos or what have - upgrades. That's annoying! Did I say a tattoo? Better just give me a patch.

And, so, that's what the code-kiddies and future geeks are working on.

I like it. More, please.

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