Cybernetics: Human-Computer Interaction and Benefits

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Cybernetics: Human
-
Computer Interaction and Benefits


James Farwell

C
omputing Research

Department of Computing Sciences

Villanova University, Villanova, Pa, 19085

james.farwell@villanova.edu

December 9th
,
2009



Abstract

Cybernetics is the study of the interaction between
human beings and computers. Computers are a
luxury that everyone experiences daily. Born in the
AI era, Cybernetics became popular through Norbert
Wiener’s book about cybernetics. Though
most
cybernetic usages are limited to the medical field,
through the technology of pacemakers and insulin
pumps, scientists like Kevin Warwick are making the
first steps into bringing
cybernetics into social and
non
-
medical uses. Warwick self
-
experimented
with
implants in his arm to interact with technology. Many
advantages are possible through the implementation
of cybernetics in society, but there are some
underlying ethical issues that cause some doubt about
cybernetics’ overall benefits in society.


1.

Introduction


Motion pictures and the popular press have
already
depicted Human
-
Computer interactions

in a futuristic
and often predictive way
. From

Star
Wars”
to recent
films like


I, Robot
” and “Terminator”, society has
seen the advantages and disadvantages of
cybernetics
, the combining of machine elements into
a human
, either for rehabilitation or genetic
enhancement. Society has
been led by this media to
perceive cybernetics and techno
logy in general as
both a miracle and a threat. Despite the claims that
technology could overpower the human race by
eventually becoming smarte
r than humans,
society
is
gradually beginning a technologically
-
involved era.


People are already using cybernetics
and related
technology
without realizing it.
For example, a
common cybernetic medical device is a

pacemaker
,
which is implanted in a person’s body to

regulate the
hear
t
beat via electrical stimulation controlled by

a
wireless signal sent by a small device the

person
must
carry at all times. On
the modern battlefield
, soldiers
are
continually
sending wireless signals to locate
positions of teammates and hostile

target
s,
and also
sending signals to communicate with their
command
base.
The devices that soldiers wear are partially
cybernetic; these devices

monitor
the
heart rate and
other vital stat
istic
s of
the
individual
, communicating

this information back to the base
.




Th
e natural e
volution of
cybernetic technology
is
likely to
eventually allow
such individualize

information to be transmitted from a single computer
chip placed
under the skin of
a soldier, sending
signals to the base about the soldier
’s health and vital
signs while simultaneousl
y

sending information to
the soldier’s Heads Up Display

(HUD
) wirelessly
.



Society is only in the beginning stages of all these
technological wonders, and one University of
Reading
professor, Kevin Warwick, took the first
step
into the new world
.


2. Background


2.1 Definition


A s
imple definition of cybernetics is the study of
interaction between humans and machines. In Greek,
cybernetics is
derived from their word meaning “the
art of steering.”
[4]

This
derivation
shows the true
meaning of what cybernetics is all about. Cybernetics
is about having a goal, either medical or beneficial,
and finding means to achieve that goal, in this case,
with
the assistance of technology.


Figure
1
: A Solider using his
Heads Up Display (HUD)
[7]

Norbert Weiner
(
F
igure 2)
coined the

term
“cybernetics” in his book

Cybernetics, or control
and communication in the animal and the machine.”

This was important because it connects control
(actions taken
to achieve

goals) with communica
tion
and information flow betwee
n the person and the
environment
. Wiener is pointing out that effective
action requires communication.
[2]




2.2 AI versus Cybernetics


Many people confuse AI with cybernetics, or
ultimately consider them to be the same idea. This is
not true, as AI deals with intelligent machines, such
as the ELIZA. ELIZA is an example of the beginning
of AI when “she” was first introduced to the

public in

the late 1960’s.
[3]

Written by Joseph Weizenbaum,
ELIZA

s main purpose was to simulate a psychiatrist.
Despite ELIZA’s many logical limitations and
frequent string concatenations, people were
convinced that they were talking to another human
bei
ng if conversation was kept simple rather than
philosophical.


Another example of AI is the chess computers Deep
Thought and Deep Blue

(Figure 3)
, which

both chess
grandmasters David Levy and Garry Kasparov each
had bouts with. Cybernetics takes on a whole new
approa
ch about computers.




Rather than the intelligent machine,
pitted against the
intelligence of humans, cybernetics focuses more on
the communication between humans
and technology

in order to enhance the capabilities of humans.
Cybernetics does not have the focus of making
humans smarter or even making decisions for

humans. Their primary goal is to link humans to
computers.


3. How Cybernetics is
Implement
ed


3.1 A Radical Implementation


Kevin Warwick

(Figure 4)
, a professor at the
University of
Reading
, was the first man to have a
chip implanted in his arm. Through a minor surgical
procedure where the area of his arm was given a local
anesthetic, Mr. Warwick has a inch long and one
-
tenth of an inch wide chip implanted in his arm. This
chip sent wireless

signals to

different types of
technology.




Mr. Warwick states, “Literally, as I walk around the
building, things happen. It's funny that I've become
used to

it. I now don't have to open
doors." Warwick
is referring to the affects the chip

has on his
surrou
ndings. When he walks throughout the
building, computers automatically pull up
preprogrammed Web pages such as his favorite sites,
doors open, and computers say "Hello, Professor
Warwick," or tell him how many e
-
mail messages he
has.


The chip was removed b
efore ten days of being in his
arm. If Warwick waited longer, his body would have
accepted the chip and removing it would be more of a
serious surgery
rather than a simple procedure.
[1]






Figure
4
: Kevin Warwick observing
the Transponder Chip that was
implanted in his left
arm

[10]

Figure
3
: AI computer "Deep Blue"
versus Chess Grand Master Garry
Kasparov. Deep Blue defeated
Kasparov

[9]

Figure
2
: Norbert Wiener, Father of
Cybernetics

[8]

3.2 Other Approaches


As mentioned earlier, there are many other common,
and some not so common, uses of cybernetics
. One
use of cybernetics, as mentioned earlier, is
prominent
in the medical field. Pacemakers are inserted into the
body
(Figure 5)
and transmit a signal which can be
recei
ved from an outsid
e device. This signal contains
information, such as a patient’s name, therapy
settings, date of birth, blood type, battery life and
other information useful to the doctor.
[11]





Insulin pumps are also about to read the body’s blood
sugar l
evel and increase or decrease flow to maintain
a normal blood sugar level.


Outside of medicine, cybernetics is not used
frequently. There are similar activities that a person
can accomplish with the help of computers, but the
interaction between human an
d computer in those
situations are nothing more than clicking a device
outside the human body or touching a key pad.


Cyber
-
futurists expect these medial tasks to be
accomplished

without the assistance of outside
devices but rather with chips in the human b
rain that
sends signals to external devices. As mentioned later,
this will greatly improve the lives of disabled or
unfortunate people.



3.3 Advantages and Disadvantages


3.3.1 Advantages


The advantages and disadvantages of cybernetics
have been discussed for years now. Some of the
advantages discovered
are

mainly focused around the
transmittance of information. Right now, this is
limited to medical information, such as blood type,
heart ra
te, oxygen levels, etc.
Other information, such
as the information displayed by Kevin Warwick, is
through computers.


Pre
-
programmed websites would be pulled up when
he was in range of a computer. Doors would open for
him, and he learned to use a computer w
ithout the
help of a mouse. Instead he used the signal in from
the chip in his arm to navigate around the computer.
These movements suggest that people with
disabilities will be able to fully operate computers
and machinery without the aid of extraneous de
vices.
Communication between one person and another will
be done through cybernetic chips, so people with
hearing, sight or speech disabilities will be able to
communicate effectively.


3.3.2 Disadvantages


Disadvantages are f
ocused around two major aspec
ts,
s
ecurity and bad intentions. Data that is stored on the
chip could conceivably be stolen and used for
identity theft. So the information on the chip must be
heavily encrypted.
Also, these chips can locate a
person in any given area if the unique signal

is being
received by a device. The notion of “Big Brother”
bothers many people, as this would be a breach of
privacy along with the unwanted transmittance of
personal information.


For bad intentions, there are many possibilities that
could arise from the
use of cybernetics
enhancements. As stated, identity theft would be a
big problem (imagine, “hacking” people.)

Also, false
identities could be easily constructed and implanted
in people, possibly for malicious intent
.
Medically,
genetically

enhancing a per
son to perform bette
r
could classify as cheating. (H
onestly, would you like
to run a race ag
ainst someone with robotic legs?

It
would be like racing against Jeff Gordon in his car
while you are on foot.)


Regardless, a lot of these disadvantages can easily
be
overcome with simple planning. Encryptions are a
must for cybernetics when dealing with personal
information, and possibly even a pin number to
access the information stored within the chip.




4.
Future
Directions



Cybernetics is advancing slowly, but noticeably.
Society saw eleven years ago a chip being implanted
into a man’s arm, and the ease of access it allowed
him. Future plans might include even more than those
already displayed.


Figure
5
: A Pacemaker in a
human body

[11]


Some instances like driving a c
ar through
cybernetics, or having more than just medical
information stored are only a few of the possibilities
of cybernetics. Keep forgetting passwords? No
problem. These chips could be programmed to put in
your login information on a site that you are
r
egistered. Maybe even bank account information, so
no more ATM cards. A person would just wave a
hand in front of a scanner and input a pin number.
Again, all this information would have to be heavily
encrypted in order to prevent theft, but that should be

easy enough to do with the technology available to
society today.


Kevin Warwick has also taken the next step into
Cybernetics. Four years after his successful
experiment with the transponder chip, he has a one
-
hundred electrode array implanted in his le
ft wrist.
With this array, he was able to control an electric
wheelchair and an intelligent mechanical arm with
nerve stimulation between the nerves in his wrist and
his brain. The chip also allowed communication of
feelings between him and his wife, who h
ad a less
intricate chip implanted in her left arm.
[6]


For his
next step, Warwick intends on having a chip with full
functionality implanted in his brain.



References:

1.
Sanchez
-
Klei, Jana
,


Cyberfuturist

plants chip in
arm to test human
-
computer interaction”
,
August 28, 1998, http://www.cnn.com/

TECH/computing/9808/28/armchip.idg/

index.html

2.
Wiener, Norbert,
Cybernetics, or control and
communication in the animal and the machine.
Cambridge, Massachusetts
: The Technology
Press; New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.,
1948.


3.
Mayr, O., James Clerk Maxwell and the Origins of
Cybernetics, 1971


4.
Pangaro, Paul, “Cybernetics


A Definition”, 1990


5.
F
rancis Heylighen
, and
Cliff Joslyn

(2001).
"
Cybernetics and Second Order Cybernetics
",
Encyclopedia of Physical Science & Technology

(3rd ed.), Vol. 4, (Academic Press, New York),
p. 155
-
170.

6. http://www.kevinwarwick.com/Cyborg2.htm

7.

http://www.fas.org/man/dod
-
101/sys/land/
land
-
warrior
-
lwc.jpg

8.
http://complexity.orconhosting.net.nz/

norbert_wiener3.jpg

9.

http://archi
-
plans
-
4u.co
m/rec.htm

10
. http://www.kevinwarwick.com/Cyborg1.htm

11.

h
ttp://www.cosmosmagazine.com/

news/1888/pacemakers
-
danger
-
hackers