Amazing Maze Running Cyborg Rats and Wizard Hats: where the frontiers of science fiction and science fact converge

If only I’d paid more attention in science class. It’s just that at the time, memorising the parts of a flower didn’t really appeal to me. If during my first science lesson, the teacher had  explained that an interest in science might enable me to live my life  at university, blowing enormous quantities of cash turning rats into cyborgs, then it’s quite probable I’d have been more diligent in naming the parts of that flower. As it is I didn’t, and now I’m left looking on in envy at a scientific world allowed to let its imagination run wild, with tools like particle accelerators, radio telescopes, quantum computers, fusion reactors, and my personal favorite, the vertical cavity surface emitting laser. Instead, I have to make to do with a board-marker that I hope has enough ink to last until the end of my lesson, on a good day I might have a choice of two colors.

I must confess, I was hoping for something a little bit, racier, from a device going by the name, vertical cavity surface emitting laser. I mean I could probably fit one inside my ‘vertical cavity’, but what would it do?

One piece of research that recently grabbed my attention has the title: Intelligence-Augmented Rat Cyborgs in Maze Solving. A fantastically titled piece of research by Yipeng Yu, Gang Pan, Yongyue Gong, Kedi Xu, Nenggan Zheng, Weidong Hua, Xiaoxiang Zheng, Zhaohui Wu, of the Computer Science faculty at Zhejiang University.

As a teacher, the irony of this isn’t wasted on me. It’s not uncommon for education to be accused, often with justification, of “dumbing down” its content. Meanwhile some of mankind’s most academically and intellectually gifted people are working on augmenting rodent intelligence. Having spent over a decade as a teacher trying to augment my students’ intelligence, I can relate to Yu et al as they try their hardest encouraging rats through a maze. From the years I have spent trying to teach students English, I could put very little faith  in any of them successfully navigating their way out of a maze. In fact, most of them seem to struggle to navigate their way to my classroom each day.

These couple of sentences that appear in the abstract of their research are enough to tell me that Yu and his friends didn’t take the warnings of Mary Shelley all that seriously:

“Cyborg intelligence is an emerging kind of intelligence paradigm. It aims to deeply integrate machine intelligence with biological intelligence by connecting machines and living beings via neural interfaces…”

Little does the human know that having perfected his new brainwave transmission hat, this rat now controls an entire laboratory of Chinese scientists.

Inevitably, Yu’s research with cerebrally enhanced rodents has lead to more destructive and more commercial applications being developed. Brain  Machine Interfaces, BMI,  are what will link humans to our computers, creating a universal human conscience. Sort of like the Borg from Star Trek.

Joking aside augmented intelligence poses some obvious moral questions that scientists will undoubtedly ignore because they will be too focused on the immediate financial rewards that are at stake. Augmenting human intelligence with computer hardware, sometimes referred to as transhumanism, is no longer fanciful, distant science fiction, but near future science.

You go to all the trouble of becoming a cyborg and they turn you into a traffic light.

If It can’t Be Weaponized It Isn’t Technology

At the cutting edge of technological mayhem and death is the, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA. To their credit they’ve not been just about developing new and innovative methods of mass slaughter, no, they were the driving force behind the modern internet, so they’re equally concerned about surveillance.

Not wanting to miss out, DARPA are leading the way with developments to augment a soldiers intelligence. Sadly, that doesn’t mean that soldiers of the future will sit down with the enemy, listen to some Chopin, and settle their grievances over a game of Bridge. The intelligence of a soldier is measured more simply in their ability to wield death. To enable American soldiers of the future the best opportunity for doing this, DARPA are taking Yu’s research to what they consider its next logical step.

I imagine a skilled computer hacker would have enormous fun with this, brings a whole new meaning to the video game genre, first person shooter.

In an article from the New Scientist in 2012, a journalist reports of visiting a research center where she wears electrodes which she describes as:

 that feeling of effortless concentration that characterises outstanding performance in all kinds of skills.

This was six years ago. Soon those that are wealthy enough will be using something similar for studying. The gap between the haves and have nots will become the augmented intelligent, and the ‘normals’. A brave New World scenario of alphas and gammas.

Elon Musk Neuralink and the Wizard’s Hat

When considering people who are shaping the our future today, it’s impossible to overlook a man so futuristic he was named after Captain Kirk’s aftershave, Elon Musk.

If we allow ourselves to ignore his recent proclivity to make accusations of sexual crimes based on no evidence, Musk still appears to be a genius, if not then Musk might be transforming into a disturbing caricature of Willy Wonka, not the Johnny Depp version,  but full on Gene Wilder.

willy wonka
There are rumors that strange things happened to Elon in that cave in northern Thailand.

Ignoring his apparent instability, Musk, unlike DARPA, doesn’t see the practical application of all technologies as a means of exterminating the greatest number of human beings in the least amount of time.

Musk actually views augmented intelligence as a natural step of evolution, and through one of his companies, Neuralink, is designing the Wizard Hat.


Each layer of the brain has been added over millions of years of evolution, starting with the reptilian core, and finishing with the neomammalian layer. Musk suggests that adding a layer of electrodes is our next evolution.

Elon Musk doesn’t just believe that this is natural, he goes much, much further. He believes that it might be necessary for the survival of the human species.

When he’s not making slanderous accusations, Musk likes to threaten the very future of mankind.

Musk’s reasoning is that as computers get faster and more capable they threaten to render humans useless, I’m often of the belief that most of us already are. He suggests that mankind will have to augment their abilities in order to be of value to future societies. Musk argues that we’re already cyborgs by virtue of the fat that our abilities are augmented by our smart phones which we already carry everywhere. The next logical step is direct interface with our brains.

If only I’d had a Wizard Hat in science, I might have labelled my flower and today be playing with lasers in my vertical cavity.


Big Brother and a Foot Massage

Something weird happened to me this morning. It happened while I was reading a book. I’m a big fan of reading, because being sat quietly limits the possibility of weird things happening. And I don’t react well to weird things. My usual response is to panic, take liberal quantities of Valium, keep clutching hold of the bag of Valium for dear life, and lock myself in a room. Now obviously this response can be alarming to others when it happens in a public place.

Anyway, I digress before I’ve even begun. The weird thing that happened was that I had an experience that left me feeling as though I had actually slipped into the world of 1984. Sadly, I don’t mean the time of Madonna, Boy George, Ronald Reagan, JR Ewing, the AIDS epidemic, and the threat of nuclear annihilation. No, this was far worse. I’m referring to the Orwellian world of 1984.

In it Orwell describes a world in which truth and history are always in flux, forever changing to meet the needs of the society’s new narrative, he states:

Who controls the past controls the future

The protagonist,Winston Smith, is employed in the Ministry of Truth. His job is to rewrite past articles so that they conform to his society’s current agenda. As the quote says, “who controls the past controls the future.” It’s reasonable to assume that misinformation, the bending of truths, and rewriting the past, played a significant part in Orwell’s dystopian world.


My 1984 experience came about because presently I’m reading The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury. If you’ve never read any of his work and you have any self respect, then the next thing you will do today is order one of his books. I buy a lot of books, both digitally online, and old fashioned hard copy. Sometimes I fail to keep track of the books I’ve purchased and buy duplicates, of either the digital or the hard copy. I went for a foot massage, I always read a book during foot-massages, if you’ve never read a book while having a foot-massage, then the next thing you must do today, after ordering a Ray Bradbury book, is go and read a book while having a foot-massage. Think I might’ve just digressed mid digression, sorry. I arrived for my foot-massage, and horror struck as I realised that I’d been stupid enough to have left my book at home. But, then I remembered that I’d been stupid enough to have ordered it on Kindle, and it would be right there on my phone, all that was left for me to do was find the place on my Kindle where I’d read up to in the hard-copy and my reading and foot-massage experience could commence.

If you’ve got this far congratulations because it’s only now that I get to the bit when things get weird.

Settled into my chair, my feet being scrubbed with fresh limes, napalm would probably be more effective, I start looking for where I was in the book. After five minutes I’m convinced that the chapter I was reading doesn’t appear in the Kindle version. With nothing else to read I begin the chapter that is in its place. Oddly I recalled reading this chapter before despite having never read this book, The Martian Chronicles.

I was confused, bewildered, but having my feet rubbed, so I controlled the urge to tear open the bag of Valium. Bradbury’s writing is so enjoyable that rereading any of it is enjoyable, whether somebody’s rubbing your feet or not. The rubbing and reading lasted an hour before I set off for home and the intention of checking the hard copy of the book.

It didn’t take long to understand why the chapter had been removed. The chapter is titled “Way up in the middle of the Air”, and it starts thus :

“Did you hear about it?”

“About what?”

“The niggers, the niggers!”

“What about ’em?”

Now of course, the word nigger is hugely offensive. It becomes even more offensive depending on the context within which it is used. Using the word today will do more than raise eyebrows, and there’s enough reason for that based on history. But let’s consider Bradbury’s use of the word. It’s said by a poorly educated, parochial character. It’s used to establish that the society is backward, and the black population are still oppressed. This leads to them to pack up there things and leave for Mars.

I’ve read quite a lot of Ray Bradbury’s work and never have I in anyway sensed sympathy towards white supremacy, if anything quite the opposite, but just because one of his stories uses the word nigger twice in the first few lines it has been removed. Who removed it? Who decided that I have too delicate a disposition to see the word nigger? I’m capable of appreciating the context in which Bradbury used the word and that at the time of the books publication, 1950, society was very different from today. The story goes on to be a damning indictment of the ignorant, racist attitudes that in 1950  were common to rural,  parochial American communities. It’s the most culturally relevant part of the book.

Publishers releasing books on Amazon, Kobo, and Nook record reader’s behaviour. They can tell where readers give up reading a book, or chapters that readers get through slowly. This information is then passed back to the author for the consideration of rewriting. That seems to go against the grain of publishing, but changing the authors work when they’re dead just seems rude

If expression through written works is open to be amended by those empowered to protect us from offensive content, what’s next? Will we see groups of men in art museums TypeXing out offensive parts of great paintings? Why wait I’ve decided to begin.



last supper
Like he failed to do with the Mona Lisa Da Vinci missed out on the bnefits of incorporating emojis into the last supper




The X Files was arguably the biggest television sensation of the 1990’s. In truth it’s a lot of the reason why so many people today think lizards run the world, and wear tin hats. The people wear the tin hats, not the lizards, but then you’re happy thinking lizards run the world it doesn’t seem too great a stretch of imagination to have them doing so wearing tin hats, so maybe the people and the lizards both wearing the tin hats, I digress. Every week the protagonist, a credulous FBI agent who believed in anything just so long as it was utterly ridiculous and was supported by a minimal amount of evidence, evidence that nearly always pointed to a government conspiracy. The show was an enormous hit, it tapped into the zeitgeist of the public’s mistrust in their government and authorities. Each week the opening credits would climax with a lightning bolt and a message saying “the truth is out there”. It was powerful stuff for what was really just a silly suspense/science fiction show. “The truth is out there”, it’s a message of hope, implying that we can find the truth if we ask the right questions and go looking for it. Back in the 1990’s it was a message that I could almost buy into.

But then we entered a new millennium, and some ass holes flew planes into some buildings started some wars in countries few of us could pronounce and for reasons even fewer of us understood. Confusion and terror wove the fabric of our society, and it was a fabric as appealing as going through your dead mother’s lingerie drawer. So, today I’m no longer convinced that the truth is out there, even it is, and even if I’m fortunate enough to find it one day, I probably won’t be able to recognise it because it’ll be disguised in the lingerie of dead women, and I’ll be too busy praying to an image of Jesus that’s been discovered burnt onto a piece of toast.

Add to this Donald Trump beckoning in a post truth era, his spokesperson Kellyanne Conway coining the phrase “alternative facts”, and I’m starting to believe that society is on the verge of losing the critical mass of truth necessary to hold this dimension together. Someone, somewere might just tell the lie that breaks the camels back, causing our dimension to implode and be sucked into Donald Trumps rectum. It sounds crazy, but I’ve got the maths to prove it.

Maybe two plus two, does equal five. Maybe, I can learn to love people deciding for me what I can and can’t read, what I can and can’t watch. Maybe it won’t be so bad.

Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.


My door remains secured, I’m still clutching my zip lock bag of Valium, but my reserves are running low.

If you’re out there, and you’ve read this message; you are the resistance.



Alex Jones – Within the Sound of Silence

The village idiot was long considered an acceptable social role, a unique individual who contributed to the social fabric of his community.

At forty-two years old I’ve read, and heard many sayings, aphorisms, proverbs, dicta, axioms, and truisms. But one has always stood out above all others:

“I wholly disapprove of what you say and will defend to the death your right to say it”

Voltaire’s overused saying, if you’re interested the original uses the verb, to write, instead of the verb, to say, is sadly applicable to the removal of Alex Jones from platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Apple and Twitter.

If we silence people we don’t like the world is going to be silent pretty soon..

The people bowed and prayed, to the neon gods they’ve made.

YouTube, Facebook, Apple, and Twitter, as private companies, are entitled to remove Alex Jones from their own platforms if they feel that he uses them to peddle his twisted ideas. But, their banning him sets a precedent, it establishes a slippery slope, whereby strange ideas and lunatics in the future can be silenced. But where’s the line, just how strange can your ideas be before they’re deemed unsavoury? When is someone too much of a lunatic to express an opinion?

Alex Jones is a sensational theatrical performer. In days of yore stories were passed down through oral tradition, these became folk tales, myths and legends. Today we have the urban myths, titillating tales, distributed through the internet, that are amusing to listen to but most of us recognise as being little more than a childish ghost story. Alex Jones is several things: a modern day cyberspace story teller, an old fashioned digital court jester, performing his morally bankrupt molestation of commonsense on the internet. Nobody can deny his compelling performances, all carried out sat in a chair, behind a desk. Info Wars was theatre, often strange, always incoherent, but theatre art. To many, not good theatre, but it was entertaining.

But to understand the situation more holistically it’s crucial to understand that Alex Jones isn’t the problem. Yes, he’s a maniac, and probably suffers from some form of mental illness, but he’s not the problem. The problem is that a large number of people believe what he says. Silencing Alex Jones will only elevate him, make a hero of him, while his gullible adherents will only have to surf the internet for five minutes to find somebody who’s probably even crazier.


Echoes in the wells of silence

The real injustice of all this goes well beyond the silencing of Alex Jones, it’s the beast that his silencing creates. Serving up Alex Jones as a martyr for free speech elevates him to a status of which he is simply not worthy. Banning Alex Jones falls right in place with the rhetoric he ‘s been randomly spouting over the past decade like an asthmatic blow whale. The village idiot is what he is, he’s a bit of fun that nobody in their right mind would ever take seriously, but now he’s being made into a champion for our most fundamental civil liberty, expression. In the years to come I’m terrified that people will talk of Ghandi, Martin Luther King jr, and Alex Jones as people who fought the good fight that ensured their freedoms. That’s a reality I refuse to be a part of.


Fools, said I, you do not know
Silence like a cancer grows

The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum—even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate. ~ Noam Chomsky

Jones is crazy; if he isn’t on some kind of psychotropic medication then he probably should be. It’s probably fairly safe to assume Chomsky isn’t crazy, at least not as crazy as Jones, and as such we should pay closer attention to what he says. A sentiment that Google only just about agrees with. Search “Alex Jones Infowars and you get 9.6 million hits, search for Noam Chomsky and Google finds only half a million hits more, thus proving idiocy is far more palatable than intellect. Chomsky identifies that the problem is not the fool that entertains the masses, but the masses who confuse the fool with the authority of knowledge.

Every society, at every age has had its Alex Jones, the difference being that the people could recognise him for what he was.


Control produces the illusion of freedom. ~ Judy Bloom