Maverick Machines



“Mavericks are machines that embody theoretical principals or technical inventions which deviate from the mainstream of computer development, but are nevertheless of value”

“You can make a computer out of almost anything”

Gordon Pask, Maverick Machines, Chapter 8, MicroMan, 1982.
ISBN 0 7126 0006 X


Neosentience | The Benevolence Engine by Bill Seaman and Otto E. Rössler (book cover)


Electrochemical Computer

An informed approach to the creation of an electrochemical
There are three different approaches to the creation of an electrochemical
1. Biomimetic Digital Computation
2. Biomimetic Analogue Computation
3. Mixed Digital/Analogue Computation 

Seaman and Otto Rössler have published a series of papers related to
Neosentience (a new robotic and computational paradigm extending ideas
from artificial intelligence) and in particular we have discussed the creation
of an electrochemical computer. Recently Seaman began a related research
project with Dr Timothy J. Senior, a Research Scholar at the Department of
Information Science and Information Studies (ISIS) at Duke University. With
his background in neuroscience, we are formalizing ideas for a biologically
inspired electrochemical computer. Like Gordon Pask, we are also interested
in the intermingling of scientific and artistic concerns.

Figure 2: Figure showing one possible arrangement of modules within our initial
electrochemical computer concept. Concept by Bill Seaman and Tim Senior. Image by
Tim Senior. Figure showing one possible arrangement of modules within our initial
electrochemical computer concept. A, Electrochemical oscillator unit; B, Module column;
C, Neurotransmitter (NT) analogue; D, Site of control for NT analogue release; E, Processor –
input integrator; F, Routes for direct external inputs; G, Electrochemical memory element;
H, Electrochemical modulator unit used to drive either excitatory or inhibitory changes
within modules from transduced external sources.

Although still at an early conceptual stage, we envisage that our electrochemical
computer will consist of modular components (akin to individual
neurons), the flexible connectivity of which will permit them to be
organized into different ‘functional’ populations. Our electrochemical computer
will also exhibit a number of biologically inspired features, including:

Gamma Oscillations

Fast synaptic inhibition promotes synchronized

gamma oscillations in hippocampal

interneuron networks

Marlene Bartos*†, Imre Vida†‡, Michael Frotscher‡, Axel Meyer§, Hannah Monyer§, Jo ̈ rg R. P. Geiger*, and Peter Jonas*¶

*Physiologisches Institut and ‡Anatomisches Institut, Universita ̈ t Freiburg, D-79104 Freiburg, Germany; and §Klinische Neurobiologie, JZN, Universita ̈ t Heidelberg, D-69120 Heidelberg, Germany

Edited by Roger A. Nicoll, University of California, San Francisco, CA, and approved July 19, 2002 (received for review April 18, 2002)



Networks of GABAergic interneurons are of critical importance for the generation of gamma frequency oscillations in the brain. To examine the underlying synaptic mechanisms, we made paired recordings from ‘‘basket cells’’ (BCs) in different subfields of hippocampal slices, using transgenic mice that express enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) under the control of the parval- bumin promoter. Unitary inhibitory postsynaptic currents (IPSCs) showed large amplitude and fast time course with mean amplitude- weighted decay time constants of 2.5, 1.2, and 1.8 ms in the dentate gyrus, and the cornu ammonis area 3 (CA3) and 1 (CA1), respec- tively (33–34°C). The decay of unitary IPSCs at BC–BC synapses was significantly faster than that at BC–principal cell synapses, indi- cating target cell-specific differences in IPSC kinetics. In addition, electrical coupling was found in a subset of BC–BC pairs. To examine whether an interneuron network with fast inhibitory synapses can act as a gamma frequency oscillator, we developed an interneuron network model based on experimentally determined properties. In comparison to previous interneuron network mod- els, our model was able to generate oscillatory activity with higher coherence over a broad range of frequencies (20–110 Hz). In this model, high coherence and flexibility in frequency control emerge from the combination of synaptic properties, network structure, and electrical coupling.

Gamma frequency oscillations are thought to be of key importance for higher brain functions, such as feature binding and temporal encoding of information (1–5). Experimental and theoretical evidence suggests that local networks of synaptically connected GABAergic interneurons are critically involved in the generation of these oscillations (6–19). First, perisomatic inhibitory interneurons (basket cells) fire action potentials at high frequency during gamma activity in vivo, with single spikes phase-locked to the oscillations of the field poten- tial (6, 7). Second, pharmacologically isolated networks of inhibitory interneurons in vitro can oscillate at gamma frequency in response to metabotropic glutamate receptor activation (8). Finally, models of mutually connected interneurons generate coherent action potential activity in the gamma frequency range in the presence of a tonic excitatory drive (9–19).




Nature Reviews Neuroscience 8, 45-56 (January 2007) | doi:10.1038/nrn2044

Synaptic mechanisms of synchronized gamma oscillations in inhibitory interneuron networks

Gamma frequency oscillations are thought to provide a temporal structure for information processing in the brain. They contribute to cognitive functions, such as memory formation and sensory processing, and are disturbed in some psychiatric disorders. Fast-spiking, parvalbumin-expressing, soma-inhibiting interneurons have a key role in the generation of these oscillations. Experimental analysis in the hippocampus and the neocortex reveals that synapses among these interneurons are highly specialized. Computational analysis further suggests that synaptic specialization turns interneuron networks into robust gamma frequency oscillators.


Will supercomputing intelligences outsmart human-level intelligence?

March 18, 2011 by Editor _ Kurzweil News

Three panelists presented alternate views on the Singularity at the SXSW conference in Austin this week, and blogger Michael Anissimov neatly summarized them. A few excerpts:

Natasha Vita-More: “The very same technology that proposes to build superintelligences could also dramatically enhance human cognition…. The coincidental and subsequent developments of inventive projects arrived at through digital media, virtuality, and immersivity have furthered the scope of human experiential enhancement as artificial intelligence technologies are fostering arguably viable developments. This overlap of computational and physical forms an evolutionary crossing point. Could the human become a super AI?”

Doug Lenat: “The bottleneck is software, not hardware…. The limitations of WATSON, Google, SIRI, etc. are ones of breadth of inference, not quantitative performance metrics…. For many years now, dozens of us have been building CYC, a repository for the common sense knowledge and general inferencing strategies…. We are on the verge of a sort of Singularity in the building of CYC: it now knows enough, and can infer enough, to carry on interactive dialogues in English, opening up the possibility of having millions of people helping it to cross that finish line in 2012.”

Michael Vassar: My work is focused on the exploration and integration of the visions of the Technological Singularity developed by Vernor Vinge, Raymond Kurzweil and Eliezer Yudkowsky…. I associate these visions of the Singularity with three stages in the likely evolution of information processing, the combined impact of which will most likely make the 22nd century resemble the 20th less closely than the 20th century resembles the Cambrian. The earliest, Vingean stage is of particular importance, because the development of superhuman collective intelligences is likely to mark the end of the period during which deliberate human decision making can enable human values to directly influence humanity’s future.”

The new overlords


Futurology (1)

The new overlords

Man and technology are evolving together in radical new ways

Mar 10th 2011 | from the print edition

    Visionary Kurzweil

    CAN machines surpass humans in intelligence? People were shocked in 1997 when IBM’s Deep Blue computer beat Garry Kasparov, a Russian grandmaster, at chess. But winning a board game is a trivial task compared with understanding the complexities and idiosyncrasies of human speech. The company has now developed Watson, a supercomputer it thinks is capable of understanding “natural language”.

    To put this claim to the test, IBM arranged for its creation to compete in “Jeopardy!”, an American quiz show known for using clues and wordplay that even bright humans struggle to understand. In the contest, televised in America in February, Watson trounced the two most successful previous champions of the quiz.

    This victory fits nicely into Ray Kurzweil’s vision. An inventor and futurist, he has long predicted the rise of intelligent machines. “Transcendent Man”, a new documentary film, probes his breathtaking, possibly balmy, vision of the future…

    Mr Kurzweil leads an influential cabal of techno-optimists, a group that includes Silicon Valley stars, scientific grandees and even the Obama administration’s chief information officer, Vivek Kundra. They believe mankind is heading for a glorious post-biological era known as the Singularity. Thanks to implants and other enhancements, humans will improve along with machines. But artificial intelligence will inevitably surpass the human kind—and will do so, according to Mr Kurzweil’s calculations, as early as 2029.

    Predicting what will happen after that point is difficult, he argues, because we cannot hope to predict the behaviour or evolution of hyper-intelligent machines. But he insists that “the intelligence that will emerge will continue to represent the human civilisation, which is already a human-machine civilisation.”

    Mr Kurzweil’s journey as a futurist began when he became intrigued by rapid advances in computing capacity. Scrutinising the progress in other realms of modern technology, he found the same explosive growth. This “law of accelerating returns” underpins the modern digital economy.

    He argues that this technological acceleration affects many industries. For example, the rate of expansion of solar energy has been doubling every two years for the past two decades which, he insists, means that solar power will meet all energy needs in 20 years. When the human genome project started, sceptics argued it would take centuries to scan an entire human genome using prevailing technologies; in fact, thanks to exponential advances in sequencing technology, it was done in less than 15 years.

    But what if the biggest breakthroughs come in improving man himself? Some technology experts think mankind will transform itself into a fitter, smarter and better-looking species in coming decades—a blink of an eye in evolutionary terms. Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullans argue in “Homo Evolutis”, a new electronic book, that the leapfrogging advances seen today in biotechnology, gene therapy, epigenetics, proteomics and a myriad of related fields are turbocharging evolution itself. “Forget the Singularity—biology will trump technology,” insists Mr Enriquez.

    The authors argue that mankind has at last become the first species capable of deliberately directing its own evolution. Some of this is being done to improve looks or athletic performance; other techniques are extending life or growing vital organs. Along the way the human species is being changed. There is no master plan, the authors insist, as it is “not one technology, government, company, region or discipline that is driving speciation.”

    As with Mr Kurzweil’s forecasts for machine super-intelligence and post-biological bodies, these predictions raise hackles in the scientific establishment. But even if the futurists are wrong about the pace of change, they may turn out to be right about the direction. In his final “Jeopardy!” answer, one of the human contestants conceded defeat by scribbling a cheeky line from “The Simpsons” television show: “I, for one, welcome our new computer overlords.”

    “Transcendent Man” was released on iTunes and On-Demand on March 1st. It will come out on DVD on May 24th. “Homo Evolutis: Please Meet the Next Human Species” is by Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullans. Amazon Digital Services; 58 pages; $3.44. Amazon Media; £2.15 (Kindle editions)