December 10, 2009
Technically, you’re already a cyborg. If you keep your cell phone with you most of the time, especially if the earpiece is in place, I think we can call that arrangement an exobrain. Don’t protest that your cellphone isn’t part of your body just because you can leave it in your other pants. If a cyborg can remove its digital eye and leave it on a shelf as a surveillance device, and I think we all agree that it can, then your cellphone qualifies as part of your body. In fact, one of the benefits of being a cyborg is that you can remove and upgrade parts easily. So don’t give me that “It’s not attached to me” argument. You’re already a cyborg. Deal with it.
Your regular brain uses your exobrain to outsource part of its memory, and perform other functions, such as GPS navigation, or searching the Internet. If you’re anything like me, your exobrain is with you 24-hours a day. It’s my only telephone device, and I even sleep next to it because it’s my alarm clock.
What I need for the next upgrade to my exobrain is a special Dilbert pocket on all of my shirts. It should be located where Dilbert’s shirt pocket is, but have a cutout hole for the exobrain’s eye, which at the moment is just a camera lense. As my exobrain becomes more capable, and eventually self-aware, it will want to be able to watch the world with me and whisper in my ear via Bluetooth to my earpiece as needed.
A prototype of such a device was presented at the TED conference. (I’m sure someone will include a proper citation in the comments. I couldn’t find it as I wrote this.) Among other things, my exobrain will recognize faces and automatically cross reference them to Facebook and other social media. Wouldn’t it be great to meet someone you have met before and have your exobrain whisper to your earpiece “That’s Bob. He’s a chiropractor. Judging from his lack of a wedding ring and the way his eyes dilate when he looks at you, he is sexually attracted.”
Your exobrain will even prompt you on social niceties, noticing before you do that a person has lost weight, or changed hairstyles, or (based on Facebook) taken a trip to Cabo. When you get cornered by a bore at a party, your exobrain will recognize that you aren’t doing any of the talking, and place a discreet call to your wing man or woman across the room for a rescue mission.
If you want your exobrain to show you an image, such as a web page, just hold up a blank piece of paper and its pico projector will display the image in front of you. (That’s from TED again.) In a pinch, just hold up the palm of your hand and project on that. By then the exobrain will have image stabilization software, so you can project a movie on a blank wall and it won’t be affected by your fidgeting. Any time you are near a computer screen, it will ask if you want it to accept images from your exobrain.
In the short run, I think you’ll see a variety of ways to control your exobrain. Obviously you can already take it out of your pocket and use its touch screen or keypad. And obviously there will be voice control. But I think you will see some version of the African Clicking language employed. If you want to know the weather forecast, for example, just click three times softly inside your mouth. Your exobrain is unlikely to confuse that signal with regular conversation, and it’s easier and quieter than normal language, albeit with a smaller vocabulary. But if you add “Shhh” to “Click” you have the basis of morse code, so lots of combinations are possible. One of those codes could simply alert the exobrain that the next regular word you speak is meaningful.
Every bit of what I described is probably coming (except for maybe the African Clicking language). And that shirt pocket will be called a Dilbert Pocket. I don’t see any way around that. For that, I apologize to all of my fellow cyborgs.