3 things direct from the future

Edition 86

Once every 2 weeks I will deliver “3 things direct from the future”. A 2 minute read that will always give you:

  • one thing that can help,
  • one thing to be wary of, and
  • one thing to amaze.

If this sounds interesting to you then please subscribe.


1. One thing that helps

Digital Brain Twin

How would you feel going into surgery with a proposed 50% success rate? Not that great I would think.

This is the scenario with epilepsy surgery. With 50 million people suffering epileptic seizures, and a third of those not getting results from drugs, surgery can be the only viable solution.

To increase these odds, researchers from Aix-Marseille Université in France have developed the Virtual Epileptic Patient (VEP) atlas – or digital brain twin.

The VEP atlas helps surgeons overcome the main issue – locating the epileptogenic zone where seizures come from. To generate a patient’s VEP, the team feeds MRI, EEG, and SEEG data (is that enough acronyms for ya!) into a virtual network modelled on the patient’s brain. The scientists then simulate brain activity using AI simulations to identify the epileptogenic zone. They can also replicate the effects of surgery at particular spots in the brain so they know which bit to remove – seems important!

Now, surgeons operating on epileptic patients are not coming in blind. They can evaluate the effects of the surgery even before it is performed. Hopefully, the clinical trials will yield positive results with VEP.


2. One to be wary of


Swatting is a dangerous prank where a false emergency is reported to prompt a SWAT team response. This dangerous prank has now become a dodgy business opportunity. A service in the Telegram messaging app called Torswats offers anonymous swatting calls using AI voice technology. Their services range from handcuffing the victim and searching the house, to closing down a school like Hempstead High School.

The perpetrators are using computer-generated voices to make the calls. It’s safer for them but definitely not for the community. But why is this dangerous? For one, swatting puts the victims and first responders in danger. Then there’s the issue of allocating resources to where they are most needed. Responding to a fake threat takes manpower away from real emergencies.

The best solution seems to be to improve the detection of AI generated voices. A tool like GPTZero can detect articles written by AI, so the use of tools that can detect when a voice call is computer-generated will become ever more important.


3. One to amaze

Third Thumb

Have you ever played the guitar and wished that you could reach that furthest fret? Well, fret not, as Dani Clode has designed a third thumb for you. It is a 3D-printed ‘prosthetic’ in the true sense of the word.

“The origin of the word ‘prosthesis’ means ’to add, put onto’; so not to fix or replace, but to extend. The project is inspired by this word origin, exploring human augmentation and aiming to reframe prosthetics as extensions of the body,” she says.

The third thumb is installed opposite the natural thumb. It is controlled by pressure sensors on the feet that send signals via Bluetooth to the prosthetic thumb.

So, what are you going to use your third thumb for? Whether you’re playing the guitar or the piano, the third thumb may finally allow you to play like a virtuoso. Or perhaps you want to pick as many apples with your one hand. Whatever it is, this opens up the discussion about human augmentation through prosthetics. Most interestingly we can explore the boundaries of neuroplasticity when it comes to body augmentation. Another step closer to the Six Million Dollar Man.

Have a great week.

Daniel J McKinnon

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