Upgrading Humans - Technical Realities, New Morals

Tuesday 20th March 2007 @ 19:00

Non-Member: £12.00 ; Staff: £5.00 ; Student: £3.00

Prof. Kevin Warwick - Professor of Cybernetics, Reading University and Imperial College Alumni

Today an increasing number of people have their nervous systems permanently connected to electronic devices.

A number of people are controlling bionic limbs by thought alone. Computers built into clothes will soon be connected to our brains. Indeed we have seen some of these new devices in our visit to the Institute of Bio-medical Engineering at the College last year.?

Professor Warwick identified where such technology has already had a profound effect. Where it can take us and we need to get there. He sees a key requirement is an effective direct link between the human brain and a computer. He captured the hearts of the 40 or so school children who attended the packed lecture by showing an interview he held with Will Smith during the London premier of I Robot.?

Professor Warwick has carried out a series of pioneering experiments in which he received a neural implant which linked his nervous system bi-directionally with the internet. Neural signals were transmitted that controlled remote devices, and feedback from these devices was perceived by the brain: the fingertips of a robot hand and neural signals from his wife's hand. She and the doctor that carried out the operation were both in the audience to demonstrate the success of the experiment.

Professor Warwick commented on the prospects for the future, both in the short term for therapeutic devices and in the long term as a form of human enhancement, including the realistic potential, in the near future, for thought communication - thereby opening up tremendous commercial potential. He said that his own experimentation had yielded little more than using the nervous system like a telegraph but was convinced that further work would yield yet more astonishing results.

He said that an individual whose brain is part human - part machine can have abilities that far surpass those who remain with a human brain alone. He questions whether such an individual will exhibit different moral and ethical values to those of a human? If so, what effects might this have on society? Would there be a two tier society.? Those that were cybernetic and those that were not.?

You can see more about Professor Warwick on his website.

Professor Warwick and his wife joined members and their guests for supper at a local restaurant after the event.

Venue: Sir Alexander Fleming Building