You’ve probably heard about the rat-brain network by now — it showed up in the popsci threads back at the end of February, provoking breathless comparisons with Vulcan mind melds and The Matrix. And I gotta say, the coverage certainly sucked me in: an actual (albeit rudimentary) network of brains, linked together to solve problems? […]

Posted in: Dumbspeech, neuro, sentience/cognition by Peter Watts 19 Comments

Deep Convictions, Shallow Roots.

(Being an English edit of a column that appeared in Nowa Fantaskyka a few months back) You’ll remember that I recently returned from a trip to Sweden. While I was there, by a curious coincidence, I happened to read a Swedish study from the Public Library of Science: “Lifting the Veil of Morality: Choice Blindness […]

Posted in: sentience/cognition by Peter Watts 30 Comments

The Windbreaker of Shame.

Back around the turn of the century — when I was old enough to know better, anyway — I answered a knock on the door to find an unfamiliar twentysomething  looking up at me with a disarming seal-pup expression on his face. He’d locked himself out of his car, apparently. He needed $20 to pay […]

Posted in: neuro, sentience/cognition by Peter Watts 32 Comments

Fruit Flies, Freeloaders, free will.

For the past few months an image has been itching at the back of my mind, like a piece of grit waiting for a story to accrete around it: a neuron culture in a petri dish, like a rifters head cheese but without any inputs to keep it sparking. We presume that all internal feedback […]

Posted in: neuro, sentience/cognition by Peter Watts 43 Comments

Martin Luther King and the Vampire Rights League

Some of you may remember my ruminations on the evolutionary significance of sociopathy, my tentative musings that it may be not so much a pathology as an adaptation, and my almost pathetic relief (scroll down to Oct 14) when people with actual credentials wonder the same thing and thus make me look like less of […]

Posted in: sentience/cognition, sociobiology by Peter Watts 123 Comments

Mystery Meat

…being a term generally applied to the entree at South Residence back at the University of Guelph.  This time, though, I’m talking about the mysteries of thinking meat, and a couple of thoughts thereupon which have sprung up elsewhere since I got back. The first is over at ChiZine‘s blog, which is currently running a […]

Blind Spots

So DARPA’s feeling a little overwhelmed by the blizzard of data at its disposal. All that telemetry. All those intercepted signals. All those eyes in the sky and ears to the ground, sucking up the terabytes so fast they can barely slap new storage into place in time to catch it all. And that’s just […]

Posted in: relevant tech, sentience/cognition by Peter Watts 28 Comments

Anyone going to this?

I’d like to, but am coming down with some kind of sore-throat/stuffed-sinus/flesh-eating-virus thingy, and have decided that I should probably quarantine myself today.  If any of you locals are going to be checking it out, though, I’d  be grateful for  an executive summary.

Posted in: sentience/cognition by Peter Watts 11 Comments

The Neurology of Transcendence

So just a day or so after we revisit “A Word for Heathens”  — a story exploring the social ramifications of neurotechnology that induces Rapture On Demand — here comes a paper by Cosimo Urgesi and his buddies showing a relationship between the posterior parietal cortex and something called “Self-Transcendence” — an index, if we […]

Posted in: ass-hamsters, neuro, sentience/cognition by Peter Watts 26 Comments

The End of War Crimes

We’ve talked about free will on these screens before. We’ve referred to consciousness as the pointy-haired boss who takes credit for decisions made endless milliseconds before it was even aware of them; tumors that turn people into pedophiles, and do violence to the very concept of “culpability’; military hardware that bypasses conscious thought entirely and […]

Posted in: neuro, sentience/cognition by Peter Watts 12 Comments