Nicholas Giovinco


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Integrated Systems and the Human Brain

I posted this over at the Freeside Atlanta Blog.  I wanted to share a few thoughts on a discussion about optical illusions and hacking the human brain.  It seems evermore apparent that robotics and computer systems begin to rival nature's greatest creations.  There are, however, a few tricks to yet be mastered.  Could delving into the human machine help us make better one's for ourselves?

Freesiders are continually tinkering with robotics and other such machinery.  Many of these embedded processors and firmware are becoming open source and every-more diversified in the wake of the modern Maker movement.

One notable boost to the hackerspace arsenal is the Arduino (an like platforms).  This offers designers an incredible power to devise not just individual devices but even the emergence of complex, integrated systems.

This evolutionary pace of modern technological systems may be significantly faster the biologic system development, but there may be a few well learned tricks yet to be mastered.  It seems that studying how nature has managed to solve many development challenges will aid in designing robotics, where efficiently counts just as much.

One  challenge, that is particularly interesting, is data processing.  Artificial intelligence is labored with processing data and producing a meaningful and useful output.  When considering the increase in sensory and input devices available to robot hackers, AI technology may not be able to simply apply Brute Force for all scenarios.

How does the human brain sort through data and minimize apophenia, in real time?  It delegates.

This, unfortunately is not a perfected system but it is still, (currently), better than anything man has managed to hacked together.  What's important to remember about these systems is that they are subject to some strange exploits, which we call "Illusions".  Optical illusions are centuries old and have often uncovered the curiosity within us all.

A recent study in the science journal, "Perception" has illustrated this point well.  In this, they illustrate the error of duplication.  Some such duplications do not appear to throw off any red flags in the observer.  However, try causing an irregularity to someone's face and it's a totally different story.

The human face is one of the most instant and profound "appliances" of human interaction.  Humans have evolved a very acute sense of facial recognition, which plays a vital role in our day to day goings on.

The difference between a smile and a frown, could mean the difference between a successful mate and a fight to the death.   Other mild variations in not so useful things don't trigger the same primal response.  This assumptive processing center of the brain acts somewhat comparably to a natural checksum, operating autonomously in the subconsciousness like a daemon

Often, Makers and Hackers share their knowledge and designs in a very "open" manner.  Nature itself has many lessons to teach designers as well.  A better understanding of these such integrated systems and their exploits may better help us to design technological systems which are both sophisticated and efficient.