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[Revised version of Foresight ms]



Charles D. Laughlin, Ph.D.

Carleton University
and the
International Consciousness Research Laboratories (ICRL)


Abstract: There has been little thought given in science to the impact of direct brain-machine interfacing upon the future development of human consciousness.  Even less thought has been given to the possibilities for both optimizing and thwarting development in the cyborg child.  A neurocognitive model of the evolution of cyborg consciousness is summarized, and from this model grounded speculations are offered pertaining to the future development of the higher cognitive functions in the cyborg child.  It will be shown that cybernetic implants are “multistable”; that is, the AI component of the cyborg brain-machine linkage may function to condition development along ideological lines (the brain conditioned by the “ideological chip”), or may operate to open up neurocognitive development to new and heretofore unrealized limits (the brain’s development optimized by the “Guru Program”).   Development of the cyborg child may be conditioned in the interests of ideological concerns, or may lead to a consciousness that easily transcends all forms of ideology.  Application of the Guru Program may foster the emergence of new levels of cognitive complexity and information processing (a la Piagetian and neo-Piagetian theory) that in turn allows new strategies of adaptation previously beyond human comprehension.  The ethical and regulatory problems raised by cyborg technologies are addressed.




Charles D. Laughlin, Ph.D.

When innovation takes place, there is an intimate linkage or fusion of two or more elements that have not been previously joined in just this fashion, so that the result is a qualitatively distinct whole.  The union is a true synthesis in that the product is a unity which has properties entirely different from the properties of its individual antecedents.  If we may use a biological analogy, an innovation is like a genetic cross or hybrid; it is totally different from either of its parents, but it resembles both of them in some respects.

                        Homer G. Barnett, Innovation (1953)


    Little attention has been paid to the implications of cyborg technologies for the development of neurocognitive processes in children.  Even less attention has been paid to the possibility that the development of human consciousness may be optimized using such technologies.  Yet many people are working today to produce an effective brain-machine interface — an interface that will eventually be incorporated into the brains of the very young.  
    There already exist technologies such as miniature video camera “eyes” installed through an electrode array in the visual cortex of certain blind people.  The United States Air Force is nearing completion of direct brain to aircraft interfacing for fighter pilots.  Scientists at Tokyo University have fitted microprocessors to the nervous systems of cockroaches, and are able to control the roaches’ behavior via a computer uplink (Anonymous 1997).  Surgeons at Emory University have succeeded in implanting microchips in the brains of paralysed patients which allow them to control a computer by thought alone.  And British Telecom has invested in a project known as Soul Catcher – a program of research designed to produce a computer link with the brain that will augment human memory and computational capacity.
    It is thus reasonably safe to predict that a direct brain-machine interface technology will be a reality in the near future.  Therefore it seems important to reflect upon the possibilities and implications for human consciousness and culture of establishing such technologies.   I have previously discussed aspects of this question as it relates to the evolution of consciousness and to development of neurocognitive processes in children — producing what I called the “cyborg child”.  In this paper I want to further develop the notion of the cyborg child, and address some rather difficult and perhaps controversial issues relative to just how such technologies may be implemented in the young person.  First I will introduce you to the notion of the cyborg, summarize a model of the evolution of cyborg consciousness, and suggest to you why I believe the cyborg child is an probable consequence of cybernetic technologies.  I will then offer some grounded speculations about the kinds of problems and possibilities we might reasonably expect to face in augmenting human neurocognitive development with artificial intelligence (AI) components.  
    What I wish to communicate more than anything else is that our modern culture with its intrenched materialist values and economically-oriented attitudes about child development will tend to apply AI components toward problem-solving and function-directed capabilities (most commonly in the medical and military domains) rather than toward the development of consciousness in its broadest sense or the total well being of the child.  At the very least these developments should give rise to serious debate over the ethical and regulatory responsibilities we face in the near future with regard to utilizing, guiding, controlling, and perhaps even forbidding experiments that involve child-machine interfacing.  For reasons that will become clear in the course of this discussion, the incremental application of cyborg technologies may well sneak up on us if we are not careful about their applications and alert to the very profound ethical issues involved.  Although a full discussion of these ethical issues is not the purpose of this paper, I will return to them briefly in the conclusion.  Hopefully by raising awareness of these issues, more attention will be paid to the discovery of ways to safely and ethically augment technologies that optimize human development.
    The notion of the cyborg grew out of the field of cybernetics.  Cybernetics, a field of research and theory first defined by Norbert Wiener in 1948, is the study of the control and regulatory properties of complex systems.  Although he did address the social implications of cybernetics in his early work, Wiener did not discuss the actual physical merger of machines and organisms.  A decade later two NASA scientists, Manfred Clynes and Nathan Kline, coined the term “cyborg,” and suggested some of the advantages for space exploration of altering the human bodily functions with machines.  Clynes and Kline’s discussed the advantages of various automatic, self-regulatory and unconscious activities of certain mechanical devices integrated as life support systems within the human body.  Clynes later extended this thinking to the alteration and control of emotions during long space flights.  
    I will be using the term “cyborg” in the narrowly technical sense originally defined by Clynes and Kline, and not in the sloppy metaphorical sense that some contemporary, so-called “cyborg anthropologists” have applied the term.  Unfortunately, the term cyborg is rapidly coming to represent every techno-cultural phenomenon no matter how distant from the original meaning of the concept; e.g., people on Prozac are said to be cyborgs, people wearing eyeglasses are cyborgs, people watching other people on television destroying buildings with smart bombs are cyborgs, people browsing the Internet are cyborgs, and people practising safe sex are cyborgs.  The precision of application of the original concept is in danger of being lost.  In an earlier work I have criticised anthropologists for this state of affairs, and have suggested that we return to the explanatory power of Clynes and Kline’s original formulation.  A cyborg (short for “cybernetic organism”) for our present purposes is simply a biomechanical being — a human or other animal that is part biological and part machine within the same physical entity.
    In my analysis I make the assumption that human consciousness and culture are functions of the human nervous system.  Consciousness is as much the function of the brain as digestion is the function of the stomach and grasping the function of the hand.  “Consciousness” means the entire field of awareness that any animal with a brain experiences at any given moment.  By “culture” I mean socially conditioned and shared mental and physical activity, including consciousness, and the artifacts of conscious activity.
    This perspective requires that we pay close attention to the physiology and engineering of the cyborg, and to watch carefully the impact of technology upon the structure and function of the mind and the body, as well as the sociocultural context in which the mind-body is conditioned and in which it has its effects.  For instance, there cannot be a cyborg without resolving the body-machine interface problem, which is difficult enough when dealing with the replacement of limbs with prosthetic devices, but which becomes exceedingly complicated when it involves direct brain-AI interfacing.  Cyborg consciousness is not now, nor will it ever be, a simple matter of “downloading” human consciousness out of a brain and into a machine — a scenario that has been portrayed numerous times in science fiction and comic books and which is predictable from artists reared in a culture that conditions them to separate mind and body.
    I have argued elsewhere  that the evolution of the human cyborg is entailed in our species’ technological nature, and proceeds through four stages:    

Table 1



Stage I:  Replacement or augmentation of the human skeleton.  Examples:  wooden leg, hook for lost hand, armor, false teeth, etc.

Stage II:  Replacement or augmentation of muscle.  Examples:  mechanical hand for lost hand, other prosthetic devices, mechanical heart valve, replacement of lens in eye, pneumatic penis implant, etc.

Stage III:  Replacement or augmentation of parts of the peripheral nervous system, the autonomic nervous system and the neuroendocrine system.  Examples:  bionic arms and legs, pacemakers, catheterized patient administered shunts, etc.

Stage IV:  Replacement or augmentation of parts of the central nervous system.  Examples: silicon-neuron interface chips in the brain allowing thought control of computers, video “eyes” for blind, Air Force cyborg fighter plane control.


    This model is based upon the argument that technological developments occurring outward from the body into the external world are often matched by the penetration of technologies of equal sophistication into the body.  This process of internalization of technology may be called the “principle of bidirectional penetration”.
    Stage I cyborg is equivalent to the extension of the hands on the outside of the body with a hammer, knife or other primitive tool.  It essentially replaces or augments the skeletal physiology of the limbs.  The first cyborg originated when the first leg was replaced by a wooden peg, or a hand with a hook.  Prosthetic devices represent the most primitive innovations leading to the process of cyborg transformation.  Portions of the nervous system have been eliminated, but not replaced, with the loss of an appendage.
    Stage II cyborg involves the technical replacement or augmentation of skeletal, circulatory and muscle systems in the body.  This stage is equivalent to the replacement of muscles with steam engines and electric motors in the outside world.  The hand is replaced with a movable machine, perhaps manipulated by servomechanisms that are controlled by movements of particular muscle groups.  The diseased heart valve is replaced by a mechanical valve.  A pneumatic penis implant is installed.  The lens of the eye is replaced by a synthetic lens, and so on.  Such mechanisms depend in part upon intact neuro-muscular systems for their control.
    At Stage III cyborg, technical penetration reaches the nervous system and replaces or augments neural structures in the peripheral, autonomic or endocrine systems involved in the regulation of internal states.  This stage is equivalent to simple regulatory systems in the external world, such as the thermostat controlling the temperature of a heater.  Clynes and Kline addressed their original cyborg notion to problems in space exploration that might be solved by Stage III cyborg measures.  The “bionic” arms and legs of the Six Million Dollar Man are fictional examples of Stage III developments, as is the more realistic contemporary heart pacemaker, and the catheterized, patient administered shunt.
    Finally, Stage IV cyborg — and the stage we are mostly concerned with here — replaces or augments structures in the central nervous system.  This stage is equivalent to the supplementation or replacement of human brain power with computers in industry.  This stage may involve modification of structures mediating the cognitive aspects of emotion,  as well as imagination, intuition, perception, rational thought, intentionality, language, etc. — all of which require higher cortical processing. The examples I gave earlier like the video cams for the blind and brain-plane interfacing for fighter pilots are cyborg advances at this level, as are microchip implants in the brains of Parkinson’s patients to alleviate the debilitating effects of the disease and in paralysed patients to allow them greater extra-neural control via computers.
    The emergence of the cyborg is a process of progressive technological penetration into the body, eventually replacing or augmenting the structures that mediate the various physical and mental attributes that we normally consider natural to human beings, such as the emotion, perception, intuition, imagination and cognition.  The process is as profound as it is probable.  I am assuming that the cybernetic penetration into the cortex of the brain will continue, and will result in the technical alteration of human consciousness.  It is clear from developments already implemented or planned for the near future that cyborg advancements will most likely occur first in the context of military and medical problem-solving.  Perhaps later these developments will shift into the domain of space exploration.  
    However these advancements proceed, we should understand that they constitute innovations in the classic sense addressed by Homer Barnett, and will very likely evidence the same structure as innovations implemented in the external world.  Thus, because knowledge about cyborg innovation will be constrained by language and other cultural filters, human consciousness will become altered in ways that are very difficult and perhaps nearly impossible for us to foresee.  The cyborg brain-mind-machine entity will be capable of processes and activities foreign to the solely biological brain-mind.  More than this, the internal organization of consciousness will become altered in such a profound way that, eventually, the mind-states enjoyed by the cyborg may be entirely different than those enjoyed by normal humans.
    There are many who shrink in horror at the very idea of cyborg interventions.  Indeed, the whole question of cyborg technologies is a controversial one, and one fraught at every turn with profound ethical consequences.  Just consider the heated debate that rages among the Deaf community over the use of cochlear implants.  Those people who identify with Big-D Deaf culture reject the technology as an unwarranted intrusion, while others who consider deafness a physical impairment may seek to use the device to make themselves more “normal” relative to hearing culture.  
    Cyborg technologies are actually inherently neither good, nor bad.  They are just as “multi-stable” (i.e., amenable to both good and evil associations) in their value as any other technological development.  All technologies are ambiguous with respect to cultural value.  Just as a Palaeolithic hand ax could be used either to feed the family or kill a spouse, the value of the cyborg will depend upon the intentions and values of the culture in which it emerges.  And just as the use of cochlear implants may be viewed as evil by members of Deaf culture, or as a boon full of promise by people identifying with hearing culture, cyborg devices will be the target for multiple values and ambivalent emotional projections.  The point to keep firmly in mind, however, is that the development of the cyborg seems as likely as the invention of the toaster.  The Stage IV cyborg is in the process of becoming, and is entailed in the technical nature of our species — that is, humans and our human-like ancestors have utilized technical adaptations for at least the last two million years.
    As I mentioned above, the emergence of the Stage IV cyborg will have important implications for the structure of consciousness.  The implications will be most dramatic  in cases where the implementation of cyborg elements occurs in early life.  In such cases, the AI components will become directly and intimately involved in the processes of neurocognitive development.  It seems likely that of all the attributes of consciousness, the processes of thought will evidence the greatest impact.  It is true, as Manfred Clynes suggested in his early discussions of the cyborg, that the emotions could be altered for the realities of lengthy space exploration.  However, it is important to note that emotion is more than mere feeling — that a major ingredient of emotion is mediated by higher cortical cognitive structures.  And it is these higher cortical structures that have a longer period of development and thus are amenable to the greatest plasticity and complexity of function.
    Over 50% of brain growth occurs during pre- and perinatal life — that is, between conception and six months of postpartum infancy.  Much of the growth of the brain after birth is due to nerve cells connecting with other nerve cells.  And the higher cortical structures continue their development into mid-adolescence and beyond.  This raises the very interesting and important question: At what age will the human brain become optimally interfaced with AI components?  For, the extent of divergence of cyborg consciousness from natural human consciousness will be determined in part by the phase of development selected for initial cyborg intervention.  The later in the natural process of development an implant is affected, the less divergence from normal human consciousness will occur.  But, just as the age at which future gymnasts or pianists begin their training effects how well their skills are optimized in later life, the earlier the AI components are interfaced with the growing brain, the more of what cyborg consciousness may eventually achieve will be optimized.
Development in the Pre- and Perinatal Awareness and Learning
    We now know from research that learning begins at least by some point during the second trimester  — in fact, researchers keep pushing the time line back earlier and earlier as methods become more refined.  It is also clear that the prenate and neonate is a cognitively active social being with a prodigious appetite for experience and learning.  Moreover, the pre- and perinatal brain appears to be prepared to carry out a program of self-regulated development which involves active exploration of the environment.  Summarizing from the wealth of information now being accumulated about early human neurocognitive development, the pre- and perinatal brain (1) is capable of seeking out, examining and learning about physical objects, (2) is capable of constructing memories about life in the womb, about birth and about events occurring in postnatal life, (3) is physiologically predisposed to be interested in faces and speech sounds, (4) is inherently social in its synchronized interactions and communications with caregivers, (5) is capable of constructing concepts of physical and social objects, (6) is probably engrossed much of the time in a symbolically rich dream-state, and (7) is cognitively and perceptually precocious relative to its physical helplessness.
    There are also some suggestive findings from animal studies that indicate that the extent of enrichment or impoverishment of the maternal environment may have a determinant effect upon the complexity of organization of the fetal cortex, thus indicating for some authorities the possibility of an “intrauterine education”,  a possibility acknowledged and even institutionalized in some cultures.  Experimental researchers have for years conducted studies on the extent of fetal perception and learning, as well as the effect of prenatal interventions upon maternal attachment.  Some have gone so far as to look into the possibilities of technological interventions designed to optimize intrauterine learning.
Heidegger’s Hammer
    These latter technological interventions have been controversial, but they do indicate a tendency to apply developmentally relevant technologies whenever they become available.  Indeed, the development of technology feeds back upon the consciousness of people and people begin to experience the world anew through the mediation of those technologies.  As Martin Heidegger noted,  put a hammer in a man’s hand and the whole world begins to look like nails.  In this case, as soon as technologies become available for educational intervention with children, there are people who are willing to apply them.  The subtle and continual adjustments that occur between culture and technology insure that by the time cyborg technologies are a reality, the attitudes and values of at least some subcultures will accept the new technologies as part of their world.
    This will no doubt be the case with cyborg technologies.  And the early foundations for these technologies are already in place.  For instance, wearable computers are already a reality.  These are miniature computers that may be worn like a bicycle helmet.  Some “wearables” feature such equipment as wrist keyboards and transparent visual displays worn like a British lord’s monocle.  All that is missing for true Stage IV cyborg implementation is, of course, the link to plug these computers directly into our brains.
    The first crude brain-machine interfaces have been by way of electrode arrays implanted in the brain.  More recently, silicon-neuron links have been used to implant functioning microchips.  Eventually, more subtle and less intrusive methods of interfacing will undoubtedly be developed, perhaps utilizing electromagnetic waves, spontaneous biophoton fields or quantum fields that act by virtue of the biophysical properties of cells.  In any event, instead of having to communicate with the wearable personal computer via keyboard or voice commands, the Stage IV cyborg link will allow direct access by intention alone, and via the “wearable” AI component to network uplinks that will bring the brain into telemetric communion with cyberspace.  
    The cyborg’s AI component uplink will facilitate integration of his or her consciousness with the vast network of information and communication technologies available on the web.  Some uplinks will be experienced by the cyborg as a kind of virtual reality that may or may not map onto the immediate physical environment.  For instance, the cyborg might directly experience dynamic weather patterns via satellite uplinks as though he or she were looking down at the planet from outer space.  Certainly this kind of alteration in mental faculties would amount to a routine, but profound shift in state of consciousness from our normal human point of view.
    Clearly such interfacing will require the appropriate development of the organic components of the system — the “meatware” as some computer hackers like to call the nervous system.  The already developed adult brain would not be able to optimize the enormous range of experiences open to the fully developed cyborg.  Moreover, as cyborgs alone will share this vast range of states, including the production and experience of virtual worlds unrelated to physical reality, the repercussions for new forms of social networking and culture are significant.  
    Growing into one’s cyborg nature will require a history of lived experience in which the individual will learn to discriminate between the real and the unreal, the actual and the virtual.  Just as humans have always had to learn the relationship between the stories they hear and their own direct experiences of the world, and modern children have had to discriminate between the world they view on TV and the world of real lived experience, the cyborg will have to master the intricate relationship between experienced cybernetic (“virtual”) events and events in reality.  Thus the question of cognitive development will become all important to the maturation of the cyborg.  And because development will be so crucial, the tendency will be — just as in the case of intrauterine “education” technologies — to begin establishing the brain-AI interface in childhood, thus taking full advantage of the relative plasticity of very young neural networks.
    While anthropologists have looked seriously at the culture of cyberspace, and the effects of advanced information and communication technologies on society,  so far as I know, the only futurist anthropological studies of relevance to the present question are our own articles discussing the future of human consciousness and the nature of cyborg consciousness.  Unfortunately, therefore, there is little direct anthropological thinking that we can use to illuminate our grounded speculations about the probably impact of cyborg technologies on the very young.  
    It would also be very illuminating to consider the long-term developmental consequences of children’s interactions with computers.  But alas, there appear to be very few longitudinal studies of the influence upon cognitive or psychological development of such interactions.  So far as I have been able to find, there exist no scientific studies directly relevant to the future impact of Stage IV cyborg technologies on human psychological or cognitive development.  But by extrapolating from what we know about cognitive development in the child, we can make some grounded deductions about the direction cyborg development might take.
What Is Development?
    My case is founded upon a distinctly Piagetian understanding of cognitive development.  Let me first characterize this view and then apply it to the maturation of the cyborg.  The concept of development in psychology tends to be defined in process terms — a perspective that has thus far alluded psychological anthropology.  The primary focus in understanding development is upon the structure of thought, as contrasted with the content of thought.  Although in any real biological sense, structure and content cannot be separated in the same way that microchips and software may be separated in computer science, the focus upon structure is critical, for the term refers to (1) how many dimensions of information are used to construct an intentional act, and (2) the rules spanning these dimensions of information.  
    The nervous system which mediates consciousness and cognition manifests a polarity between adaptation to the environment on the one hand (the adaptation pole) and the maintenance of the integrity of the body’s internal organization on the other hand (the conservation pole).  This polarity produces a tension in the organism between the necessity to rise to meet environmental challenges and to utilize environmental resources on the one hand, and to conserve its own internal viability on the other hand.  Organisms thus naturally strive to “autoregulate” their activities in a way that simultaneously answers these twin demands — the answer being a dynamic state of equilibration.  
    Jean Piaget defined a structure as a system of transformations in the organization of information.  A cognitive structure is thus the formal organization of thought which is simultaneously capable of maintaining a consistent identity (conservation) while providing the instrument of change through interaction with the environment (adaptation).  Cognitive structure in the human child and adult is mediated by neural networks in the brain.  But of course the cognitive structure of the cyborg child and adult will be mediated by the amalgamation of both neural and AI components.  Yet there is no reason to suppose that development of consciousness and cognition in the cyborg will be free of this essential adaptation-conservation polarity.
    Cognitive structures may be conceptualized as varying in their complexity, stability and adaptability.  In Neo-Piagetian thinking, the complexity dimension is usually seen as laying upon a continuum from concrete to abstract.  The location of any particular structure on this continuum is determined by the complexity of its organizational rules.  In actual research, the internal complexity of the cognitive structures are inferred from behavior, because we have no real way yet of looking inside the neurocognitive structure as it is actually operating.  More complex or abstract structures are thought to be more stable and adaptive than are more simple or concrete structures.
    Our experience of, and responses to “objective” reality are determined by the structure of our apperceiving cognitive system — that is to say, the experiential faculties of our brain.  More advanced cognitive structures construe reality in a more complicated and abstract way than do concrete structures, the latter mediating a simpler and more tangible experience of reality.  Complex structures adapt to reality in a more multiplex and flexible manner.  Keep in mind that human cognitive structures are not epiphenomena floating above the brain, but are biological systems that grow.  Again, the hardware-software distinction does not apply to neural development and processing.  Structures must literally “in-form” themselves  – that is, they must change their internal organization so that their systems properties are maintained, and yet they flexibly mediate the meaning and responses that are appropriate to ever-changing environmental conditions and events.   In the course of equilibration the cognitive structures alternate between assimilating patterns detected in sensory information and accommodating the organization of the structures to sensory input.  When autoregulation is in balance, the assimilation-accommodation interplay facilitates a smooth reorganization of the internal cognitive model of the world.  And as the internal model grows and changes, so too does the world of experience change.  Moreover, the logic of cognized relations changes as the mediating neural systems mature.  It is this latter factor that is represented in the various stage models of cognitive development.
The Inverted U-Curve Model
    One way that we have found useful in visualizing the relations between structure and adaptation is by depicting the activity of cognitive structures along an inverted U-curve (see Figure 1):
[Figure 1 about here]
    Because they are made up of neurophysiological tissues, cognitive structures do not operate at peak complexity or efficiency at all times. They are trophic systems whose function has as much to do with metabolic factors as it does with environmental press.  Also, there is a relationship between the quantity and complexity of information about the environment and just how complexly the cognitive structures construe the environment.  If the environment is perceived to be sub-optimal (Y in Figure 1), then the cognitive structure that “rises” to meet the environment will be sub-optimal and relatively more concrete (B).  When the environment is perceived as optimally challenging to the structure (X), it will operate at its peak complexity (A).  What is interesting is that if the environment is perceived to be super-optimal (Z), experienced perhaps as distressful, the tendency is for the cognitive structure to regress back into concreteness (B again).  Information will be excluded and decisions will be made based upon rules and precedence, rather than more complex strategies of decision-making.
    Understood in this way, the relationship between environment and cognitive structure is seen to be a non-linear and an interactive one.  We can easily see how mature cognitive structures are more adaptive relative to the press of the environment than are immature ones.  In Figure 2 we see two cognitive systems depicted as two inverted U-curves, the lower one (Curve B) is immature and concrete in its operations, and the higher one (Curve A) is more mature and abstract in its problem solving.  
[Figure 2 about here]
    The higher system is more complex than the lower one and is thus able to operate at peak complexity with far higher levels of environmental press than the lower system can sustain.  An environmental situation (C) that taxes the immature system into peak cognitive complexity (F) is barely sufficient to interest the higher system, while the environmental complexity (D) necessary to invite peak complexity in the mature system (E) is sufficient to overwhelm the immature system and send it regressing to greater concreteness.
    How do structures of this sort operate in babies?  Well, although we suspect rudimentary structures are operating in infants, this question has thus far been very difficult to approach empirically.  But where it was once believed that no measures of infant cognitive activity correlated with IQ later in childhood, we now know that individual differences in attention to novelty, as well as other attention-related factors, have been observed among infants, and that these have been shown to predict to psychometric intelligence later in childhood.  Joseph Fagan has hypothesized that this continuity of intelligent processing may be mediated by “a small set of processes for knowledge acquisition that are innate, that underlie g, and that provide the basis for continuity in intellectual functioning during development.”    The intelligent neonate and infant seem to be curious about their world and especially interested in novelty — this despite the relative immaturity of their behavior.  And this curiosity and relative skill at reducing novelty to redundancy in perception seems to establish the foundations for later application of adaptive intelligence.
    In its turn, intelligence (as measured by IQ tests) seems to be related to the development of perceptual judgements — that is, the relative dependence or independence of field upon one’s judgements about objects; the so-called Witkin field dependence-independence measure.  It is know that IQ correlates highly with relative field independence.  That is, the more intelligent the child, the more likely the child will develop perceptual judgements independent of field relations and more in keeping with personal decision criteria.  Measures of field independence purport to get at internal perceptual differentiation — although this claim remains tentative and controversial.
    Intelligence also correlates with Piagetian structural development.  The correlations, though significant, are low suggesting multi-variable contingencies effecting cognitive development in the child.  Although Piagetian measures of cognitive complexity pertain primarily to the child’s conception of the physical world, Piagetian structural development also seems to lay the cognitive ground for social cognition as well.  Kohlberg and others have found that “the [Piagetian] cognitive maturity is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for moral judgement maturity.”  
    All of these correlations suggest a single developmental process that begins with the fetus/neonate’s facility to make discriminations in the perceptual world affording a necessary, but not sufficient condition for the development of intelligence in the IQ sense.  Emergence of intelligence later in childhood becomes a necessary but not sufficient condition for Piagetian structural development (“adaptive intelligence”).  Still later in adolescence, Piagetian structural development is a necessary but not sufficient condition for higher social and moral judgement.  These relations are depicted in Figure 3.
Figure 3:
The Development of Cognitive Structure in the Child


 Fetal/Infant Perceptual       Field Dependence/       Piagetian Structural       Social and Moral
        Intelligence                      Independence               Development                Development

            high                                     high                               high                               high

    low                                      low                                low                                 low


    Figure 3 indicates that very early development of perceptual ability places constraints upon the style of field related perceptual judgement later on.  If an infant is very rapid in producing redundancy from perceptual novelty, then the child may or may not become relatively field independent later in childhood.  But if the infant is slow in producing redundancy in its perceptual environment, it cannot become highly field independent later on.  In the same fashion, if the child does develop relatively high field independence in perceptual judgements, it may or may not reach higher Piagetian structural development (the stage of “formal operations” in Piagetian jargon).  On the other hand, if the child remains very field dependent in its perceptual judgements, it cannot become highly complex in terms of Piagetian structural development (that is, the logic of its cognition remains relatively undifferentiated and concrete).  Finally, if the child reaches higher structural development relative to cognition about the physical world, it may or may not develop such complexity in social and moral cognition, but the child who remains at a lower level of Piagetian structural development cannot reach higher stages of social and moral development.  
    There is the problem, of course, of uneven structural development — what Piaget called decalages.  Considering that each moment of consciousness is mediated by a discrete organization of neural networks, one can see that as the object of consciousness changes, so too may the organization of cognition change relative to the object.  Over the course of life, conditions may favor development of formal operations within one object domain while other domains remain relatively underdeveloped.  One’s culture and one’s personal history may impede development in certain domains and encourage development in others.  This pattern of uneven development is what Piaget meant by decalages.  I will return to the issue of developmental decalages in a later section.
    Of course what I have presented here is just a model.  It is intended as a heuristic to suggest the developmental flow through fetal, infant and childhood maturation.  Some of the relations between these measures have been confirmed and others remain hypotheses.   However, the model gives us a more firm starting point for extrapolating to what the intervention of cyborg technologies might portend for development at various points in a child’s life.
Development and the Cyborg Child
    Considering the story of development sketched in above, it is obvious that the impact of cyborg technology upon development depends upon the age at which the child receives the AI interface.  It seems most likely that the first cyborg AI interfaces will be established in later adolescence or adulthood, and then be applied to younger children as the technology is perfected, thus impacting earlier and earlier stages of cognitive development.  So let us reflect upon the impact of interventions in the same reverse sequence.
    1.  First Interventions.  The first interfaces will likely make available data links and AI computing capabilities to already developed neurocognitive structures.  These first forays into Stage IV cyborg consciousness will eventually make available information from alternative sensing devices for cognition to operate upon.  But just as now, information in the infrared range of the EM spectrum will be transposed to the normal range of visual experience.  Infrared sensing devices will stimulate the visual cortex directly and the cyborg will experience infrared information within the range of normally perceived redness.  The same will occur with the detection of auditory vibrations of frequencies outside the normal range of human hearing.  New senses will be constructed that allow transposition of information from an expanding range of fields into the normal range of human awareness.  Telescopic vision, vision in the x-ray range, amplified hearing, direct perception of EM media and other data sources will become available to augment the sensorium.  Presumably the cyborg will be able to call up this expanded sensing capacity by a simple intention or act of will.
    The principal impact of this expanding range of sensing will be that of optimizing the amount of information available for experience and cognition, and for testing models of the world derived from the more narrow range of sensory experience.  The AI components will interpolate data as called for by the neural processing structures mediating the ongoing stream of consciousness.  One can imagine two cyborg’s discussing the weather and calling up information in the form of real time pictures from an orbiting weather satellite via uplinks to cyberspace.  The cyborg will experience weather in a far more global way than the rest of us are capable.  Information from global tracking networks will only be an act of will away from consciousness at any moment.
    2.  First Developmental Interventions.  In order to actually influence cognitive development in any substantial way, the AI interface must be established before the cells of the target neural structures have finished growing their axonic-dendritic connections with other cells.  The first such interface will presumably be established with those structures of the cortex that mediate higher cognitive functions.  We know that these finish most of their growth by mid-to-late-teens — also the period of final myelinization of neural pathways.  It is likely then that early, developmentally fruitful interventions will involve high school level people with perhaps the intention of optimizing the emergence of advanced structural capabilities — say, the optimization of abstract thought (“formal operations” in the Piagetian scheme).  
    Here the earliest developmental advantages of Stage IV cyborg technologies will be felt, for we know that culture and personal upbringing have a significant effect on encouraging or hindering optimal development of abstract thought.  Most members of any society fail to develop higher structural capacity, and because of dietary, environmental and sociocultural factors, there appear to be many societies in which few, if any, develop the such capacity.   Thus, according to the developmental model discussed above, most or all members of a culture may be incapable of abstract social decision-making and moral judgement.  Indeed, among societies that do not produce abstract thinkers, the cultural inhibitions begin much earlier in life.  These are usually societies (often horticultural societies) in which field independence is notably discouraged.  In any event, a technology that could intervene to optimize structural development may prove to be a boon, even if applied as late as adolescence.  The cyborg may be expected to develop abstract thinking to physical problems, cultural interpretations, social decision-making and moral judgement.  Considering that all natural human cultures are largely grounded upon concrete rule formation, ritualized activity and social conformity, a society of adult cyborgs capable of global abstract thought would be revolutionary.
    3.  Interventions in Childhood.  The earlier in the life of a person the cyborg interface is applied, the greater the impact it will have upon the course and extent of cognitive development.  Furthermore, the earlier in life, the more adaptively plastic are neural structures.  Neural networks will be able to accommodate themselves more readily to the AI interface.   Once fully operational thought (“true thought” in the adult sense) is established, the AI component may be used to optimize both the global application of thought, and perhaps the emergence of a well-rounded, inter-domain abstract capability.  If the intervention occurs during the pre-operational period, then the optimization of true thought will be more easily facilitated and globalized.  Even earlier application with children still in the sensorimotor stage will facilitate still more the optimization of advanced levels of thought.  And the earlier the application is made, the more plastic will be the accommodation made by the neural structures interfacing with the AI components.
    It seems probable that young cyborgs will experience socially controlled access to cyberspace resources.  Because the social intent of cyborg interventions will be to optimize development along pathways and dimensions that are valued by adult society, the enculturation of the cyborg child’s consciousness will be just as conditioned by culture as for any purely human consciousness.  This will be more the case the earlier the intervention is affected, for children at the sensorimotor stage make sense of the world in a very different way than do older children and adults capable of operational thought.  They will be in effect cyborgs-in-training and allowed to interact within a socially constrained, juvenile cyberspace.
    An early target for cyborg intervention may be the optimization of field independence in perceptual judgements.  Greater field independence involves the same factor as does pre- and perinatal perceptual intelligence — that being the facility with which one makes perceptual discriminations relative to internal models of the world, thus producing redundancy.  It is clear from the cross-cultural and educational research on cognitive style that the cultural environment and one’s personal history has a lot to do with just how field dependent or independent one may become.  The AI component of the cyborg interface may be designed to maximize field independence in perceptual decision making, thus providing the cognitive style requisite for optimal structural development later in childhood.
    4.  Cyborg Interventions in Fetuses and Babies. There is no way to tell at this juncture just what form the future fetal brain-AI interface may take.  I doubt very seriously that it will be of the wearable computer kind of technology.  It will certainly not require the implanting of crude cortical electrode arrays.  Among other factors, no one will allow that kind of experimentation to be carried out on babies.  More likely it will be some kind of non-intrusive field interaction produced between neural networks and an AI component located external to the fetus, and perhaps even external to the mother.  Be that as it may, the intrauterine development facilitated by the cyborg interface, if permitted, will be profound, for it will allow the optimal stimulation of all the available senses as they develop.  
    Neural networks do not remain dormant until some external event activates them.  Neural networks are made up of living cells that “do their thing” as soon as they connect and form electrochemical bonds with other cells.  If the AI component interpolates external information in the form of stimulation of sensory or dream material (fetuses spend most of their time sleeping and dreaming), this can change the quality of the operation of neural networks.  The intrauterine environment of the fetus may become optimally enriched relative to the actual environment and activity of the mother.  Thus intrauterine cyborg technologies may well be capable of circumventing environmental deprivation — deprivation of the sort that research tells us leaves lasting psychological deficits that can span generations.
    Among other possibilities, the AI component will be able to exercise the perceptual operations by which the late term fetus and infant reduce sensory novelty to redundancy, thus optimizing the perceptual intelligence that forms the anlagen for later cognitive development.  This is of course the rationale for some of the fetal stimulation experiments and technologies that have already been carried out.  The cyborg interface will maximize that possibility for the stimulation of sensorial and rudimentary cognitive tissues in a way that will be direct and interactive.  The AI component will be designed to sense the state of preparedness of neural networks for junction and interaction.  Enrichment of the fetus/neonate perceptual environment may be maximized independent of what the actual environment of the mother may be like.
    Stage IV cyborg technologies will eventually be able to both replace and augment neural tissues.  A lot of the impetus right now for developing these technologies is the medical desire to replace damaged brain tissues — tissues that no longer perform their normal functions, and that, as in the case of Parkinson’s Disease, leave victims facing lifestyle altering disabilities.  It is hard to know to what extent the intrauterine application of AI components will involve replacement of tissues, but certainly they will make augmentation possible, in addition to the optimization function we have been discussing.
    If you grant me something like the scenario I have painted for the cyborg child, you will probably acknowledge the likelihood of certain consequences for the future of human consciousness.  For one thing, cyborg technologies applied early in childhood will result in a change in the organization of the child’s brain, which eventually will necessarily produce a different kind of adult human consciousness.  These changes may be so radically different compared to the normal human brain that we will be forced to recognize a new species of consciousness; i.e., cyborg consciousness.
    For another thing, the complexity of neurocognitive processing will be greatly augmented.  In the Piagetian sense discussed above, the complexity of each individual’s cognitive processing is limited by the extent of that individual’s neurobiological development.  Obviously, cyborg augmentation may well expand the limits of the maximal complexity of cognition.  Cyborg technologies could increase the number of parallel information processing domains that are integrated within any particular intentional act.  They will certainly result in an increase in the shear amount of information being processed.  Moreover, cyborg decision-making will fuse both natural neurocognitive logic and the logic(s) built into the AI components.  For the foreseeable future, the logic of neurocognitive operations will remain a function of the internal organization of neural networks.  This logic includes both the inherent logic of the sort that we experience as intuition, and the genetically, culturally and linguistically influenced logic of reason.  The logic of the AI components, in contrast, will be conditioned by the grammar of association built into both hardware and software, which of course will evolve very rapidly relative to the evolution of organic systems.  The cyborg may well come to know things in a different and (from the normal human perspective) perhaps an alien way.  Decisions may be reached with blinding speed, and the results of enhanced cognitive complexity may well be beyond what even the most developed natural human brain is now capable of either rendering or comprehending.  
The Ideology Chip
    It is obvious from the history of technology that there will be a strong tendency for initial Stage IV cyborg applications to be problem and occupation oriented.  All of the cyborg developments I noted in tracing the evolution of the cyborg from Stage I through Stage IV are problem-oriented.  Most cyborg technologies thus far developed, or presently on the drawing board are either in answer to medical problems –  replacements for injured limbs and senses, replacements for damaged neural, circulatory and endocrine systems – or provide military applications – how to make fighter pilots more efficient, astronauts more comfortable on long interplanetary flights, etc. There is a natural structure to the process of innovation which inclines novel applications to retain elements of past usage.  In other words, there is always a conservative aspect to innovation.  As anthropologist Homer Barnett showed, “No innovation springs full-blown out of nothing; it must have antecedents, and these are always traceable, provided that enough data are available for analysis.  An innovation is, therefore, a creation only in the sense that it is a new combination, never in the sense that it is something emerging from nothing.”  When automobiles were first invented, the engine was placed in the front, not because that was the most efficient configuration, but because that was where the horses used to go.
    In just this way, our thinking vis a vis cyborg applications will tend to be problem oriented, for that is how we who are raised in the various Euroamerican materialist cultures are conditioned to think about technologies.  For this reason, we will be inclined to think in terms of augmenting the normal facilities of the human brain in ways that make normal problem-solving abilities more accurate, efficient, practical and cost-effective; indeed, we will judge cyborg technologies using the same criteria we use when evaluating other forms of technology.  
    Herein lies one of the possible dangers of emergent and innovative cyborg technologies – the possible extension of this thinking to the development of the ideology chip.  I am using the term ideology chip to refer in general to any AI component that predisposes the cyborg to an arbitrary interpretation or socioculturally limited point of view about something.  As I have shown, the emergence of cyborg technologies has been from the lowest towards the highest level of physiological structure – from replacement of limbs with tools, through to the replacement or augmentation of higher cortical structures.  As each level of technology emerges, it carries with it some of the elements of previous levels.  Old elements become recombined with new elements at a new level of complexity and application.  Thus by the time Stage IV cyborg applications are available, they will tend to be designed to either replace tissues, or augment tissues in such a way that they implicitly incorporate within their design and programming the very sociocultural values and goals which led to their production in the first place.  If left to its own devices, the course of emergence of Euroamerican cyborgs will further exacerbate developmental decalanges; i.e., will be in the direction of even more uneven neurocognitive development.  
    The ideology chip may well lead to even more unwholesome states of consciousness in cyborgs, all in the service of some socially or commercially directed goal.  Ideology chips implemented in children will be designed with educational goals in mind.  Thus one can imagine chips designed to enhance mathematical capabilities, provide encyclopedic knowledge at will, increase vocabulary, facilitate networking in cyberspace, and the like.  One may also imagine chips designed to solve “behavior problems” and “attention deficit problems” in school children.  Instead of being drugged, a problem child might be “plugged in” to an ideology chip that alters their cognition, affect and behavior toward the socially desired norm.  A chip may be designed to correct learning disorders such as dyslexia.  Such technologies will have the effect of preserving the unevenness of development already experienced by normal children exposed to Western-style education today.  
    It is important to understand that what most anthropologists mean by “culture” is in part the social conditioning of consciousness.  The society “enculturates” its young into, as it were, the social stew, imbuing each member of society with its values, attitudes, skills, points of view, identity and parcels of knowledge.  And while culture is necessarily celebrated within the modern multicultural milieu, we need to keep in mind that some cultural traditions, such as modern urban Euroamerican culture may systematically enculturate its members into highly uneven, and even psychopathological, developmental configurations.  Any cyborg AI component developed by people within such a tradition will tend therefore to forward the goals and attitudes of that tradition.  It will make perfect sense to people who value career success and accrual of wealth over wholeness, health and happiness that cyborg interventions in the young be directed at making the young more successfully competitive and skillful within the context of a global capitalist market.  Values may be consciously or unconsciously represented within the programming of ideology chips in such a way that the development of the young cyborg is biased in culturally prescribed directions.  
    Augmentation of neural systems leading to such uneven maturation in the cyborg child would be tantamount to unbalancing neurological development in favor of the adaptational pole relative to the conservation pole.  The natural tendency of the brain to balance its development over the course of life could become even more thwarted than is now the case with cultural conditioning within modern Euroamerican society.  While the cyborg child may become more adapted to discrete social expectations and problem domains, such conditioning may result in the same kind of internal emotional stress (or neurosis) in the cyborg that our youth and adults are burdened with today.  Equilibration within an unhealthy sociocultural milieu may be reached at the expense of psychopathology – and perhaps psychopathological patterns or a type heretofore not experienced by the normal human psyche.
    As Marilyn Strathern has suggested, technologies may blur the distinction between culture and nature.  Cyborg technologies will be even more dramatic in this effect due to the fact that in the cyborg, nature and technology merge into a single intimate and inextricable being; one in which the very structures normally mediating enculturation may become changed.   Such a merger may not result in long-term health in the sense of becoming a whole, satisfied and joyful person.  Moreover, as Steve Mann, the inventor of wearable computers cautions, these rapidly emerging technologies raise profound philosophical and ethical questions.  It is my opinion that these issues need to be addressed before the technologies become permanently implemented.
The Guru Program
    There is an alternative to the piecemeal, adaptational and problem oriented augmentation scenario, and that is what I term the “guru program.”  I use the term guru program in the sense of an intentional double entendre – in one sense meaning a particular kind of AI component and in another sense meaning a project or context of implementation.  In the AI sense I mean a hardware-software combination that brings the neurobiological portions of the cyborg system to peak cognitive development through a series of alternating experiential and interpretive exercises — a kind of “You see this?  Good, now try this!” learning which proceeds within cyberspace and at the optimal speed of each individual’s neural development.  The AI guru program will be designed to sense the developmental preparedness of any particular neural network and will exercise and guide the network at the network’s optimal rate.  It will be equivalent to having a built-in teacher, but “teacher” in the broad spiritual/therapeutic sense used in Eastern meditative traditions.  
    The AI guru program would be designed to do a number of things, including: (1) detect trauma induced neurotic loops and facilitate their healing, (2) optimize the stimulation to the broadest range of neural networks, each in their turn as they become prepared for developmental growth spurts, (3) inhibit premature closure of development of any particular neural network, (4) detect and signal the onset of any diseases internal to the brain, (5) augment the full range of higher cortical processes (e.g., intuitive understanding, logical-mathematical reason, imagination, “higher” limbic system level emotional cognition, etc.), (6) augment the natural exteroceptive and interoceptive senses so as to enhance the optimal amount of information being processed at crucial developmental phases, (7) extend the range of exteroception into those zones of the electromagnetic spectrum heretofore undetectable by normal human senses, (8) extend the range of information mediated by interoception so as to detect and diagnose non-neural somatic diseases, (9) detect and deactivate any plug-in AI component that is incompatible with the overall developmental well being of the child, or that is interfering with development of neural networks in any particular domain.  These and other functions could conceivably be built into a guru program, the overall design of which is intended to optimize and broaden the scope of human neurocognitive development.
    In order to be more specific about what I mean by the optimization of cognitive development, let us return to the model described in Figure 3 above.  Optimization of development in the infant would involve guidance toward, and perhaps augmentation of the processes of perceptual intelligence.  That is, facilitating the ability to reduce novel objects to redundancy.  In an object-relations sense, the child would be encouraged to maximally differentiate objects, as well as the self-object distinction.  Maximizing object-relations differentiation would eventually operate to accelerate maximum field independence. Optimized field independence would in turn lead to the conditions requisite for optimal Piagetian cognitive development.  And optimizing Piagetian development within the domain of physical relations (causation, space, number, etc.) would lay the foundations for optimizing social and moral development.  The programmed goal at every stage of development would be the maximum complexity of operations – operations that at each level would involve merged neural-AI integration.  Both the “wet” and “dry” ware would develop in tandem.
    As I suggested, I also mean “guru program” in a metaphorical sense — implying a new type of project.  Recognizing that the evolution of Stage IV cyborg technologies will likely as not lead to their implementation in the young, we should undertake a planned program of research that will eventually produce the necessary hardware-software package required for the guru program in the AI sense, and that the guru AI component will become the platform within which any other cyborg technologies will be utilized, at least in children.  The guru program project would have two goals, one being the research and development required to perfect the guru AI component, and the other being the on-going evaluation of new cyborg technologies for compatibility via a vis the primary goal of producing healthy, well rounded development in the young cyborg.
    I have tried here to counter current scientific neglect of the possible implications of direct brain-machine interfacing for the future development and evolution of human consciousness.  I have tried to extrapolate the possibilities presented by cyborg technologies for both optimizing and thwarting the neurocognitive development in the cyborg child.  A neurocognitive model of the evolution of cyborg consciousness was presented showing an probable bidirectional penetration of technology outwards from the body into the world, and inwards from the world into the body.  The model posits four stages in the evolution of the cyborg, with Stage IV cyborgs emerging as a consequence of direct CNS-AI interfacing.  I have argued that Stage IV cyborg technologies will likely be implemented in children, thus opening up profound implications for psychological development.  From this model I have offered empirically grounded speculations pertaining to the future development of the higher cognitive functions in the cyborg child.  I have argued that cybernetic implants are “multistable”; that is, the AI component of the cyborg brain-machine linkage may function to condition development along task-oriented and ideological lines (the brain conditioned by the “ideological chip”), or may operate to open up neurocognitive development to new and heretofore unrealized limits (the brain’s development optimized by the “Guru Program”).   In other words, development of the cyborg child may be on the one hand conditioned in the interests of pragmatic concerns and economically driven motives, or may lead on the other hand to a consciousness that fundamentally transcends all forms of ideology.  Application of the Guru Program may foster the emergence of new levels of cognitive complexity and information processing that in turn will allow new strategies of adaptation that have been previously beyond human comprehension or capability.
    Whether or not these speculations prove accurate in detail over time, the emergence of the Stage IV cyborg seems imminent.  Many people are striving at this very moment to bring this reality about, albeit for all sorts of pragmatic, and even compassionate reasons – as in the implementation of nono-technological solutions to medical and psychiatric problems.  However, as I have implied, the conscious rationalizations that are given by these people to justify their efforts are not the real reasons and motivations behind the endeavor.  The real motivations are largely unconscious to people and have to do with the biological forces that continue to drive the evolution of consciousness.  The Stage IV cyborg may well prove to be the next stage in hominid evolution, and humans working to bring Stage IV about may represent the catalysts for the evolutionary transformation.  In any event, there is no reason why the real motives and processes may not be raised more generally into consciousness, thereby allowing us to think about the consequences of cyborg technologies and to some extent at least prepare for them ahead of time.  
    Clearly there are ethical and regulatory issues involved.  From a certain point of view,  the present study has been written to raise the consciousness of people about some important ethical issues we will eventually face relative to cyborg development.  Clear thinking and planning now could make all the difference with respect to how cyborg technologies are implemented in the child, for the younger the child at age of CNS-AI interfacing, the more profound will be the developmental ramifications.  This understanding alone should be incentive enough for entering into a serious debate over cyborg-related ethical and instrumental issues.  We need to make informed judgements about how far we are prepared to allow cyborg R & D to proceed without effective professional and governmental regulation.  We should keep in mind that, with the exception of whether or not computer games promote violence among children, there has been remarkably little public attention paid to the long term psychological effects of the introduction of personal computers into the lives and education of young children.  It seems that most parents accept this technological intrusion as natural and perhaps inevitable.
    Although I do feel that cyborg technologies are on the horizon, how they are implemented will make the difference between whether eventual cyborg child development proves to be wholesome or unwholesome.  In order to guide developments toward wholesome outcomes, educators and social scientists, ethicists and religious leaders should combine forces with concerned parents in a public discussion of the issues and to work out guidelines for future cyborg applications that target children.  Control should not be left in the hands of decision-makers in corporate board rooms whose sole profit motive is to develop and purvey technologies willy-nilly to anyone who will buy them.  If left in the control of corporations, cyborg development will almost certainly veer toward the ideology chip scenario.  But if we fully awaken to the issues involved in cyborg development, my hope is that through implementing effective regulation of cyborg applications we will be able to steer a course more towards the guru program, and toward the future well being of humanity.



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