I read a lot of science fiction. Over the years, many of these tales have involved brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) in one form or another.
I’m not 100% sure, but I think the first such story that really made me think about this stuff was The Terminal Man by Michael Crichton. This novel involves a guy called Harry Benson who suffers bouts of psychomotor epilepsy following a car crash. During these seizures, Harry becomes extremely violent and attacks people (he cannot remember anything about this after an attack). In order to effect a cure, scientists decide to implant electrodes in Harry’s brain, where these electrodes stimulate the brain as required under the control of a small computer powered by a plutonium power pack implanted in his shoulder.
It may not surprise you to discover that things quickly go pear-shaped. If you were to read this story now, you would be amused by the “clunky” depiction of the computers and user interfaces. You have to remind yourself that this was written in 1972, which was just one year after the introduction of the first commercially deployed microprocessor in the form of the Intel 4004.
The reason I mention this here is that I just read an article — Will BMI Implants be as Easy as LASIK Eye Surgery? — by my old chum John Blyler, who is a Senior Editor at DesignNews.com
The thrust of this article is that, later today as I pen these words, “Elon Musk’s Neuralink company will demonstrate a brain-machine interface (BMI) device to supplement human brainpower and enable better communication with artificial intelligence (AI) systems.”
I don’t know about you, but this scares the socks off me. On the one hand, I’m all for the efforts currently taking place to allow amputees to control sophisticated prosthetic limbs and paraplegics/quadriplegics to control full-body exoskeletons (see this video of a mind-controlled exoskeleton allowing a paralyzed man to walk).
Also, knowing how often I access the internet to resolve questions and find out how to do things, I can appreciate the potential advantages of having direct access to the sum total of human knowledge at one’s neurontips, as it were.
On the other hand, on the basis that the biggest brains we have at our disposal cannot stop the Chinese, Russians, and Iranians (and even the North Koreans, for goodness’ sake) from hacking our computers and stealing our data, do we really want to tempt them by offering them access to our brains? I think not!
But that’s not what I wanted to talk to you about.
The reason I was moved to mention Elon’s fabulously foolish foray into BMI technology is that I just discovered an interesting option to a rather useful tool I’m prone to use on occasion.
Do you sometimes wonder which words should be capitalized and which should be left untouched when crafting titles for articles, brochures, slides, webpages, and suchlike? Well, there’s a jolly useful free online tool available at CapitalizeMyTitle.com
All you do is select the style guide and case style you wish to employ, type or paste the text in question, and “Bob’s your uncle” (or aunt, depending on your family dynamic).
I’m not sure why the default style guide should be the APA, which is that of The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (I’m sure we don’t need to read anything into this). Personally, I opt for the AP (Associated Press) style guide.
Not surprisingly, given the name of the tool, the default case is “Title Case,” but other options are available. I’m the sort of fellow that, given a button to press or something to click, there’s a good chance a pressing or clicking will occur. Thus it was that, when I noticed an option called “AIT Case,” I clicked it to see what it did. The result let to the “BrAiN ImPlAnTs aNd tItLe cApIlIzAtIoN” title of this column.
I have no idea what AIT stands for. The only AIT acronym I could find was for “Acute Infectious Thyroiditis,” which was less than useless, not least that I can’t even spell Acute Infectious Thyroiditis.
Whatever AIT is, and for whatever twisted purpose it was conceived, as soon as I saw the result, I thought to myself, “This is the sort of thing I would expect to see if I were using a brain-machine implant,” which reminded me of John’s column, which led to this column (it’s like “The circle of life” writ small).
As always, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on any and all of this, from the desirability of us all having BMIs implanted into our noggins to the reason AIT Case even exists.