Dumb Ol’ Facts Anyway

by wjw on January 8, 2013

When I was writing about this kind of thing back in the Eighties, I recall being denounced to my face on a panel at a science fiction convention, by s writer who claimed that the mind-machine interface was just dumb fantasy, because it wasn’t Supported By The Facts— any electrode inserted in the brain would be eaten, or dissolved.  Or something.

The audience was urged to avoid stupid fantasy literature like Hardwired, and to read the author’s Real He-Man SF, Complete With Facts.

I don’t recall ever hearing from that author again.  And here, courtesy of alert friend Jo Lynn and 60 Minutes, is a video of a machine operated by thought.

Speaker to Managers January 8, 2013 at 6:53 am

Yeah, those pesky facts. I had some similar arguments in the ’70s when people kept trying to tell me we’d never be able to learn enough about how the brain worked to build a brain-machine interface. At the time I was working in a neurophysiology lab which was mapping the cat visual cortex neuron by neuron, and figuring out the image recognition algorithms that pretty much all mammalian brains use from the maps.

TJIC January 8, 2013 at 1:36 pm

I’m amused at people who don’t understand the difference between “I can’t figure out how to do it” and “it can’t be done”.

Unless you’re a physicist and you’re pointing out that a proposal violations conservation of energy, relativity, one of the laws of thermodynamics, or something similar, then it’s just an engineering problem.

wjw January 8, 2013 at 11:07 pm

Yeah, and I believe the guy was an engineer, too.

mearsk January 8, 2013 at 11:39 pm

Was the author named “Lord Kelvin?”

Ralf The Dog. January 10, 2013 at 6:15 pm

I must admit to being a bit skeptical about the risk of infections. I am not saying, it can’t be done. I am saying, if this become common, quite a few people may come down with blue/green brain mold.

Markus W Mahlberg January 12, 2013 at 7:49 am

I do not really get the point in that Science Fiction stories need to be backed by facts anyway. Yes, they should follow the inherent logic of the story and it is really disturbing if it does not.

But let’s take H.G. Wells “The War of the Worlds”: Interplanetary travel? The book was written before the first motorized flight of Orville and Wilnur Wright! Depicted Laser Weaponry? Einstein published “On the Quantum Theory of Radiation” (the commonly accepted theoretical foundation of lasers) almost 20 years later, and Bohr published the foundation for that 2 years after the novel was published. Do these facts make the book worse or less important, even in it’s publishing era? I doubt that.

I am of the opinion that the “Science” part in Science Fiction is often overemphasized in discussions just because some people want to show off their logic and education.

And especially “Hardwired” is a very bad example to use when one wants to argue about facts. The only “magic” in this novel is Reno’s transformation, something even the high tech addicted Cowboy does not understand. A good way of showing that there might be leads in technological development we might want to consider if we want them.

That said: wjw, the best laugh is the last. I wholeheartedly grant this to you!

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