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Bad auCtIon by Brendan zaChary allIson
I didn’t think so. I thought no, but I set up the speller with the most common letters together in Thoughtspace and so at least it was close. So no, I’m not selling it for only nine million, we all know this still the greatest breakthrough in the history of brain computer interfaces. Don’t you think so? Next!
No? English only, please! I hear enough German at BCI conferences. Just say no. Yeah, I know why six is afraid of seven. Old joke. I’m done with you. Next!
Yes, you, who was that thinking at me this time? So many of you. Medical applications? You think so? Well, I’m sure it does. I make real BCIs. I’m not full of Eloney. You got a bid? No? Next!
You? Don’t trust me? There’s so much Face bookrap out there I wouldn’t trust anyone in BCI-land at first. Yes, it would work with schizos. Usual positive symptoms? Delusions of grandeur, auditory hallucinations, fragmented thought, trouble concentrating, geez, sure it would work but they wouldn’t listen. Next!
Hey! It’s you again. Yes, you told me the Niners won. So? Quit thinking that at me. Next!
You – in the back. No, but I’ve done surgery on monkeys. OK, well, I’ve been in the room during surgeries. I mean, in the same room, but not at the same time. NO! Of course I was qualified to implant myself! I’m me! So tired of people who don’t believe in me. Next!
I need a written offer letter. Where were we on the price? I keep getting interrupted. Nine hundred something. Going once! Going twice! Whaddya mean, that’s not what you meant? Next!
Yes, I did design it with a Do not Disturb switch for privacy. It is? Right now? Nah. I don’t think so. Because well then how do I have all of these voices in my head? Next!
Oh, there’s a higher offer. You mean nine hundred eleven? It’s not an amount? Huh? Nine won one what?
“Madness in great minds must not unwatched go.”
Hamlet, Act III, Scene I.
The story has some swipes at the BCI bruhaha from Elon Musk and Facebook. I’ve spoken about them publicly many times. Yes, they might come up with something innovative, even revolutionary, just from spending lots of money over many years. No, they haven’t done so yet. Nothing innovative about hype and false hope.
NOTE: “911” is the number you call for emergency help (such as an ambulance) in the USA. Other countries use different numbers.
Whether this story is realistic (or even counts as BCI-fi) depends on your interpretation. There is no BCI that translates thoughts into words at the speed of thought ala Jerry Fodor. However, it could be a mentally ill author without any technology. If we assume it’s a real person suffering from botched home neurosurgery, then it’s most realistic if we presume the person was mentally ill independent of that event. Although I’m not sure, I don’t see how home neurosurgery, or a resulting infection, could produce symptoms like this in a previously healthy person.
There is the famous story of a neuroscientist and neurosurgeon named Phil Kennedy who had himself implanted with a brain implant that he invented. However, unlike the protagonist in this story, Phil (1) was a neurosurgeon; (2) didn’t implant himself, but rather hired a team of neurosurgeons and other professionals to implant him, with appropriate ethical approvals; and (3) seems to have suffered no permanent ill effects. I interviewed Phil about 10 years ago and have spoken with him many times since then, including checking this paragraph with him (March 24-26, 2022). The documentary film “Father of the Cyborgs” has more detail about him, along with many online articles. You might also enjoy “Unlocking Erik: A Freedom Journey” available through his website, Amazon, and the publisher.
This story is bleak. One of the more positive outcomes is that the protagonist did call 911 and can be completely healed. It’s still sad.
Another positive interpretation is that the starting premise is true. He’s healthy. There was no problem with botched home neurosurgery. He’s mistaken about the DnD switch for privacy, or it’s just not working properly. He does have lots of people bidding on and through a revolutionary BCI that he invented. The bidding is around 911 million by coincidence or a bidder with a sense of humor.
I wrote an earlier version several years ago and shared it with some friends. I edited and posted it in March, 2022. This was titled “Think so” until I revised it in May 2022.
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