A UK cybernetics professor is planning to allow a computer to control his body and recreate his emotions in the latest of a series of high-profile experiments.
Professor Kevin Warwick will have a silicon chip implant placed in his arm and connected to his nervous system in an attempt to find out whether the computer will be able to move his fingers by copying signals from his brain.
If the experiment is successful, Warwick said his wife has agreed to also have an implant. This could let them share thoughts. "If someone has to know what I'm thinking, she wants to be the one," he said.
Warwick is conducting the experiment, which he hopes will begin in July 2001, because he believes that mankind needs to become cybernetically enhanced and he was bold in his predictions of where the technology might go.
A world similar to that depicted in the Terminator movie is a realistic scientific possibility, he claimed, but added: "The robots will not all look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. But in the long term, I hope it will be possible to communicate by thought over the internet."
Warwick received his first implant, which has now been removed, in the autumn of 1998 in what is believed to have been the first such experiment. The implant was a relatively unsophisticated device that enabled a computer to keep track of where he was in a building and to switch on lights.
"I came to regard the implant as part of me and I felt closeness with the computer," he said.
The latest device, however, will be connected to the nerve fibres in Warwick's arm so that it can receive and transmit signals. It will about half the size of a business card and consist of a transmitter, receiver, battery and high-speed, low-power processor, which is about as powerful as a Z80. The signals will be processed using a laptop PC.
Warwick hopes to feed data from sonar or ultrasonic sensors to provide him with what he describes as "extra-sensory" capabilities. He said the technology could be used in future to build devices to help blind people perceive where they are in a building.
But he also plans to experiment with emotions to see if computers can recreate feelings and moods. The nerve impulses associated with emotions ranging from pain, anger, shock and excitement, will be "stored and played back".
Warwick even plans to recreate the feeling of being drunk. "I'll take quite a few glasses of wine and play it back to recreate the sensation I had in the first place," he said.
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