Home Chapter 1 Broadband and neural extensions
Broadband and neural extensions

A still greater augmentation of the human mind and body is underway through the vast human and cerebral connections that the World Wide Web provides. The media artist and theorist Roy Ascott sees the Web as an expanded form of an emerging consciousness. He calls this a “noetic network” in which our minds and information networks come together to create a new space of consciousness, which reveals much about our values. According to Ascott:

Cyberspace cannot remain innocent. It is a matrix of human values, it carries a psychic charge.

The recent move toward political campaigning on the Internet is one sign that the World Wide Web has become an established place to meet, interact and organize with others freely. Is this a form of emergent consciousness? Broadband networks are also increasing this human augmentation in other ways as computers are increasingly tied to the manipulation of symbolic systems that influence and shape cultural creativity through data, image, voice, and video channels.

 

Broadband refers to the communications technologies and networks where frequency is divided into separate channels or bands for simultaneous transmission of data, voice, and video.


 
With increasing WiFi, the web is now entering public space and allowing us access to voice, video, and data wherever there is a broadcast node. One can imagine these networks reaching into radio space and allowing connectivity, as analogous to neural dendrites, reaching out to other brain cells, to establish connection, memory, and cognition. BPL will allow you to receive high speed Internet through your home wiring and you can add a wireless network to this as well.
 
 

WiFi means wireless fidelity, which allows you to connect your computer to the internet within the range of a transmitting base station.

 


Nevertheless, computers are not only in our physical environments as modulators of our needs orin our consciousnesses as influencers of our artistic expression, they are now creeping under our skin and into our nervous systems. Douglas McCreery of the Huntington Medical Research Institute’s Neural Engineering Laboratories has been heading a group working on restoring hearing to profoundly deaf individuals, with cochlear implants that electronically stimulate the auditory nerve and allow formerly deaf individuals to hear.

 

Cochlear Implant.  Dr. Douglas McCreery, Huntington Medical Research Institution. 

 

 Researchers have been successful in bypassing damaged auditory nerves and directly attaching the electrodes to the brain stem. They have discovered that by varying the shape and length of the electrodes, they neither puncture nor crush the neural cells as the probe penetrates the brain stem near the ventral cochlear nucleus. This team has been successful in allowing formerly deaf individuals to distinguish pitch much better than with past implants. [8] Darpa currently (2014) has a new grand challenge to create implantable electronics to help soldiers recover from traumatic brain injury and recover the use of limbs by emitting micro voltages in the brain.

The next question is what kind of implants are possible that will allow us to augment and extend normal ranges of hearing? Perhaps to the subsonic or ultrasonic levels so we can hear the ultrasonic chirps of bats or sub audible rumblings of killer whales, without cumbersome electronics. This will certainly increase the possibilities for interspecies communication.

What if we could hear the subsonic rumblings of plate tectonics to predict the beginning of earthquakes? What new knowledge and ways of seeing might we have access to with new extended senses? What other senses, like vision, touch, or smell could be augmented? Might we create a sixth sense that would allow us to directly sense pheromones? Might forms of synethesia be induced through the electronic rewiring of our senses?