News Article | May 3, 2017
The idea of the human mind as the ultimate domain of absolute protection from external intrusion has persisted for centuries. In a masque written by John Milton in 1634 a young woman is bounded to an enchanted chair by a debauched man named Comus. Despite being restrained against her will, she claims: “Thou canst not touch the freedom of my mind,” confident of her capacity to protect her mental freedom from any external manipulation. In 1913, historian John Bagnell Bury wrote: “A man can never be hindered from thinking whatever he chooses so long as he conceals.” Today, however, this presumption might no longer hold. Cutting-edge neurodevices, such as sophisticated neuroimaging and brain-computer interfaces (BCI), enable to record, decode and modulate the neural correlates of mental processes. Research shows that the combination of neuroimaging technology and artificial intelligence allows to “read” correlates of mental states including hidden intentions, visual experiences or even dreams with an increasing degree of accuracy and resolution. While these advances have a great potential for research and medicine, they pose a fundamental ethical, legal and social challenge: determining whether, or under what conditions, it is legitimate to gain access to, or to interfere with another person’s neural activity. This question has particular social relevance since many neurotechnologies have moved away from a solely clinical setting and into the commercial domain, where they are no longer subject to the strict ethical guidelines of clinical research. Today, companies like Google and Verizon use neuroimaging technology and other neuromarketing research services to detect consumer preferences and hidden impressions on their advertisements or products. Attempts to decode mental information via neuroimaging are also occurring in court case, sometimes in a scientifically questionable way. For example, in 2008, an Indian woman was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment on the basis of a brain scan showing, according to the judge, “experiential knowledge” about the crime. The potential of neurotechnology as a forensic tool has raised particular attention in relation to lie detection for interrogation purposes. In spite of experts’ skepticism, commercial companies such as No-Lie-FMRI and Government Works Inc. are marketing the use of FMRI- and EEG-based technology to ascertain truth and falsehood via brain recordings. In parallel, armed forces are testing neuromonitoring techniques to detect deficiencies in a warfighter’s brain activity and utilizing brain stimulation to increase their alert and attention. In 2015, the journal Science released a special issue titled “The End of Privacy,” highlighting how new technological trends from big data to ubiquitous Internet connections, make “traditional notions of privacy obsolete.” In a sense, neurotechnology can be seen as just another technological trend that might erode our privacy in the digital world and there is little we can do about it. However, given the intimate link between mental privacy and subjectivity we might not be so willing to accept this conclusion. In his famous 1984, George Orwell projected a future where “nothing was your own except the few cubic centimeters inside your skull.” In fact, when mental information is no longer secluded, nothing is secluded, and the very notion of subjectivity—the quality of existing in someone's mind rather than the external world—becomes empty. According to a new article, as neurotechnology disseminates outside the clinical setting, we are facing a societal challenge: determining what rights individuals are entitled to exercise in relation to their mental dimension. According to the authors—myself from the University of Basel and Roberto Andorno from the University of Zürich—this challenge might require the reconceptualization of existing human rights and even the creation of new neurospecific human rights. A right to cognitive liberty, widely discussed among neurolawyers, would entitle individuals to make free and competent decisions regarding their use of neurotechnology. A right to mental privacy would protect individuals against the unconsented intrusion by third parties into their brain data as well as against the unauthorized collection of those data. Breaches of privacy at the neural level could be more dangerous than conventional ones because they can bypass the level of conscious reasoning, leaving individuals without protections from having their mind involuntarily read. This risk does not apply only to participants in predatory neuromarketing studies and disproportionate uses of neurotechnology in courts, but to general individuals as well. With the growing availability of Internet-connected consumer-grade brain-computer interfaces, more and more individuals are becoming users of neurodevices. Last week Facebook unveiled a plan to create brain-computer speech-to-text interface to translate thoughts directly from brain signals to a computer screen, bypassing speech and fingertips. Similar attempts are being made by major mobile communication providers, Samsung in particular. In the future, brain control could replace the keyboard and speech recognition as a primary way to interact with computers. With interconnected neurotools becoming potentially ubiquitous, novel possibility for misuse will arise—cybersecurity breaches included. Computer scientists have already demonstrated the feasibility of hacking attacks aimed at extracting information from BCI-users without authorization. In addition, research shows that connected medical devices are vulnerable to sabotage. Neuroscientists at Oxford University suggest that the same vulnerability affects brain implants, a phenomenon labeled “brainjacking.” Such possibilities of misuse might urge a reconceptualization of the right to mental integrity. This right, recognized by international law (Article 3 of the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights) as a right to mental health, should not only protect from mental illness but also from illicit and harmful manipulations of people’s neural activity through the misuse of neurotechnology. Finally, a right to psychological continuity might preserve people’s personal identity and the continuity of their mental life from unconsented external alteration by third parties. Psychological continuity is an important issue in the context of national security, where mandatory personality-changing interventions might be justified in light of greater strategic goals. Brain interventions that reduce the need for sleep are already in use in the military, and it’s easy to imagine interventions that make soldiers more belligerent or fearless. These possibilities have already raised attention among legislators. Back in 1999 a European Parliament committee called for a global ban of research “which seeks to apply knowledge of the chemical, electrical, (…) or other functioning of the human brain to the development of weapons which might enable any form of manipulation of human beings.” Calibrated normative approaches should guarantee the alignment of neurotechnology development and personal freedoms. At the same time, they should avoid fear-mongering, unrealistic narratives that might harm scientific progress. An open debate involving neuroscientists, legal experts, ethicists and general citizens is required to maximize the benefits of advancing neurotechnology while minimizing unintended risks.
News Article | April 27, 2017
As if Facebook wasn’t already pervasive enough in everyday life, the company’s newly formed Building 8 “moon shot” factory is working on a device they say would let people type out words via a brain–computer interface (BCI). If all goes according to plan—and that’s a big if—Building 8’s neural prosthetic would strap onto a person’s head, use an optical technique to decode intended speech and then type those thoughts on a computer or smartphone at up to 100 words per minute. This would be an order-of-magnitude faster than today’s state-of-the-art speech decoders. The use of light waves to quickly and accurately read brain waves is a tall order, especially when today’s most sophisticated BCIs, which are surgically implanted in the brain, can translate neural impulses into binary actions—yes/no, click/don’t click—at only a fraction of that speed. Still, Facebook has positioned its Building 8 as an advanced research and development laboratory launched in the model of Google’s X, the lab behind the Waymo self-driving car and Glass augmented-reality headset. So it is no surprise Building 8’s first project out of the gate proposes a pretty far-fetched technology to tackle a problem that neuroscientists have been chipping away at for decades. Here’s how the proposed device would work: the BCI will use optical fibers to direct photons from a laser source through a person’s skull into the cerebral cortex, specifically those areas involved in speech production. The BCI would “sample groups of neurons [in the brain’s speech center] and analyze the instantaneous changes in optical properties as they fire,” says Regina Dugan, head of Building 8 and a former executive at both Google and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Light scattering through the neurons would reveal changes in their shape and configuration as the brain cells and their components—mitochondria, ribosomes and cell nuclei, for example—move. Building 8’s BCI would measure the number and type of photons bounced off of the neurons in the cortex and send that information—wirelessly or via a cable—to a computer that uses machine-learning software to interpret the results. That interpretation would then be typed as text on the screen of a computer, smartphone or some other gadget. The speech production network in your brain executes a series of planning steps before you speak, says Mark Chevillet, Building 8’s technical lead on the BCI project. “In this system we’re looking to decode neural signals from the stage just before you actually articulate what you want to say.” Because the researchers are focusing on a very specific application—speech—they know the prosthetic’s sensors must have millimeter-level resolution and be able to sample brain waves at about 300 times per second in order to measure the brain’s speech signals with high fidelity, Dugan says. “This isn’t about decoding random thoughts. This is about decoding the words you’ve already decided to share by sending them to the speech [production] center of your brain,” she says. The brain’s speech centers usually refer to Wernicke’s area (speech processing) and Broca’s area (speech production). The latter then sends output to the motor cortex to produce the muscle movements that result in speech. Chevillet and Dugan position the project as a potential communication option for the large numbers of people who suffer from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and other conditions that prevent them from being able to type or even speak. Furthermore, Dugan points out that interface would also offer a “more fluid human–computer interface” that supports Facebook’s efforts to promote augmented reality (AR). “Even a very simple capability to do something like a yes/no brain click would be foundational for advances in AR,” Dugan says. “In that respect it becomes a bit like the mouse was in the early computer interface days. Think of it like a ‘brain mouse.’” For all of that to happen, Building 8 must develop a BCI that fits over the head while also being able to produce the high-quality signals needed to decode neural activity into speech, says Chevillet, a former program manager of applied neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University. He and his team want to build a modified version of the functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) systems used today for neuroimaging. Whereas conventional fNIRS systems work by bouncing light off a tissue sample and analyze all of the returning photons no matter how diffuse, Building 8’s prosthetic would detect only those photons that have scattered a small number of times—so-called quasi-ballistic photons—in order to provide the necessary spatial resolution. Additional challenges remain if and when Chevillet’s team can deliver their proposed prosthetic. One is whether the changes in the returning light will create patterns unique enough to represent each of the letters, words and phrases needed to translate brain waves into words on a screen, says Stephen Boppart, director of the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign’s Center for Optical Molecular Imaging. If that is possible, you might be able to train a person to generate different thought patterns over time that would correspond to a particular word or phrase, “but that hasn’t really been demonstrated,” he says. Dugan and Chevillet acknowledge the obstacles but say they intend to build on key research related to their work. One recent study, for example, demonstrated several paralyzed individuals could communicate using signals recorded directly from parts of the motor cortex that control arm movements, achieving some of the fastest brain-typing speeds to date (ranging from three to eight words per minute). Another study showed machine learning can successfully decode information from neural signals. Both projects, however, relied on electrodes placed in or on the surface of the brain. Chevillet’s team hopes to have a good idea of the technology needed to create their new optical prosthetic within two years, although it is unclear when they might build a working prototype. To meet these ambitious goals Building 8 has, over the past six months, recruited at least 60 scientists and engineers from the University of California, San Francisco; U.C. Berkeley; Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory; Johns Hopkins Medicine; and Washington University School of Medicine in Saint Louis who specialize in machine-learning methods for decoding speech and language, optical neuroimaging systems and advanced neural prosthetics, Dugan says. Regardless of whether Building 8 succeeds in delivering its BCI prosthetic, Facebook’s investment in the project is a big win for science, says Adam Gazzaley, founder and executive director of U.C. San Francisco’s Neuroscape translational neuroscience center. “We have increasing struggles to squeeze money out of the National Institutes of Health, especially to do high-risk, high-reward projects like what Facebook is describing,” says Gazzaley, who is not involved in the Building 8 research. “It’s a great sign and should be encouraged and applauded if large companies in the consumer space are taking such serious efforts to be innovative in neuroscience.”
News Article | April 27, 2017
BakerCorp International, Inc. ("BCI") will host a conference call discussing its results for the fourth quarter ended January 31, 2017 on May 2nd at11:00 am Eastern Daylight Time (EST). A digital replay of the call will be available for 7 days after the call on the investor relations portion of BCI's website. The dial-in instructions for the live call are: From time to time, BCI may make statements that predict or forecast future events or results, depend on future events for their accuracy or otherwise contain "forward-looking information." BCI makes these statements in good faith, based on management's expectations and beliefs concerning future events, and the statements are not guarantees of future performance. BCI cautions readers that actual results may differ materially from those described in forward looking statements as a result of various factors, some of which are beyond its control, including, but not limited to: the general health of the economy; trends in oil and natural gas prices; ongoing government review of hydraulic fracturing and its environmental impact; the cost and success of any expansion of its business into new geographic markets or product lines or through acquisitions; BCI's relationships with its suppliers; BCI's costs to maintain, repair, and replace its equipment; BCI's ability to redeploy its equipment as it comes off rent; competitive pressures, including from any customers that decide to replace its services by providing them in house; changes affecting the terms of its lease arrangements for branch locations; any violations of environmental and safety regulations; changes in the many laws and regulations to which BCI is subject; fluctuations in currency exchange rates affecting its foreign operations; turnover of its management and its ability to attract and retain other key personnel; BCI's relationships with its employees, including any attempt to collectively bargain; claims relating to BCI's business, especially those not fully covered by insurance; any disruptions in its information technology systems; fluctuations in fuel costs or reduced supplies of fuel; difficulty collecting on contracts with customers; climate change, climate change regulations and greenhouse effects; the effect of trucking regulations and changes in trucking regulations; the affirmative vote in the UK to withdraw from the EU; and variable rate indebtedness. These and other factors that may adversely affect BCI's future performance or financial condition are contained in BCI's Annual Report on Form 10-K and Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q which is available on the investor portion of BCI's website.
News Article | April 17, 2017
For life is full of uncertainties, insurance coverage is necessary for safety and security in life. No one can predict future. Ill fortune can make life a total mess, leaving one guessing what could be done to get out of it. Despite the uncertainties, the general belief holds true in most of the cases. No matter how bad the condition gets, one can surely find avenues to come out of it. What better than certain insurance to protect life and assets! Whether it is life insurance or auto insurance, homeowner insurance or commercial insurance, finding the right one can ease the financial burden for a family. BCI Bi-County Insurance provides a selection of insurance options that are strategically designed to cover the folks in various ways. The company is known for their good will and dedication and passion. The expert team offers the customers some piece of mind by providing homeowner’s policies from financially sound insurance companies. Whether it is motorcycle insurance in Galesburg or homeowner insurance, the company has a wide selection of policies from financially sound insurance companies. The company is committed to make sure that the property is insured to value in the event of a claim. They also offer free replacement cost analysis as well as coverage for one’s prized possessions such as Jewelry, Collections, Guns etc. The staff at Bi-County Insurance is all trained and certified. They are all prepared to ask the right questions scouting the policy discounts to provide the correct coverage at the correct price. The auto insurance agents are licensed and glad to serve the folks of Burlington, IA, Galesburg, & Monmouth, IL. The car insurance coverage at Bi-County Insurance includes RV, ATV, Motorcycle, Boat or personal watercraft. Similarly, they also understand importance of commercial insurance which by and large varies depending on the unique requirements of the industry. This is why, people at Bi-County Insurance take time to understand the nature of business in order to provide the right coverage at the right price. To learn more about term life in Galesburg and other plans, feel free to call their toll free number at 888-264-4087. About the Company: At Bi-County Insurance the experts can provide affordable health and life insurance products to help protect your assets and ease the financial burden for your family. Their home & life insurance agents are licensed in Illinois and Iowa, and are proud to serve the communities of Burlington, IA, Galesburg, & Monmouth, IL.
News Article | April 20, 2017
Open source interface to connect your brain to your computer Most of us need a computer interface implanted in our brains like we need a hole in our head. That said, there are benefits to bridging the gap between mind and machine. Joel Murphy is the founder of OpenBCI, an inexpensive, and non-invasive, brain-computer interface (BCI) platform. People have used OpenBCI to control robots, compose music by thinking about it, develop games, and help individuals who are "locked in" and can't control their bodies communicate with the outside world. Mark Frauenfelder and I interviewed Joel about open source, DIY neurotech in this episode of For Future Reference, a new podcast from Institute for the Future: Please subscribe to For Future Reference: iTunes, RSS, Soundcloud
News Article | May 2, 2017
As the UK's former top police officer, he perhaps knows more than anyone about the value of preparing for worst case scenarios In what will be one of his first speeches since departing his role as the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe will be delivering the keynote speech at the BCI World Conference at the Novotel London West Hotel in November. In what was a baptism of fire, Sir Bernard took charge of the Metropolitan Police not long after the worse riots London had experienced in several decades and shortly before the 2012 Olympics. His vision for the Met was ‘total policing' which sought to promote total professionalism from the workforce, a total war on crime and total care for victims. James McAlister FBCI, Chairman of the Business Continuity Institute, commented: “We’re thrilled to have Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe speaking at the conference. As the UK's former top police officer, he perhaps knows more than anyone about the value of preparing for worst case scenarios, and of working in partnership with a wide range of groups to prevent those scenarios from happening. I know he’ll have some fascinating, and as yet unheard, stories to tell from his time in charge. The whole programme looks to be the best one yet, and I would encourage those in the industry to book their place and take advantage of the terrific learning and networking opportunity that BCI World offers.” The BCI World Conference will feature a wide range of subjects that will enable delegates to make their organizations more resilient, whether it’s cyber security, physical security, supply chain resilience or crisis management, the conference will address the threats we face, both in the present and in the future. The Triple A programme will feature three streams – actions, approaches ad aspirations. The BCI World Conference and Exhibition is an absolute must-attend event for any business continuity or resilience professional. We tailor the programme with the purpose of providing a forum for discussion, testing of new concepts, practical takeaways and presenting new research.
News Article | May 5, 2017
Paris - On the eve of its tenth anniversary, Denim Première Vision demonstrated what might be tomorrow’s denim. The buzz at the Paris Event Center on 26th and 27th April was all about ecology and technology. “If ecology is the major topic for the whole industry and has experienced real evolution, then technology remains associated with active sport, namely performing-fibre products, for example, with a vintage look”, explains Marion Foret, fashion product manager of Denim Première Vision. In the field of recyclable denim, Advance Denim (China) displayed a canvas combining 100 percent recyclable cotton and filament (Solucell®). The recycling of cotton/polyester mixes is usually impossible as fibres cannot be separated. Here, this action is possible because Solucell® dissolves in water thus enabling both fibres to be recycled. The idea is like inviting the consumer to take their used denim to the shop and from there it will be sent back to the factory so that the product can be fully recycled. At M&J Group, innovation involves the reduction of laundry costs. Water, energy, chemical products…by means of a full-cycle monitoring and measuring system enables complete traceability of the denim canvas production process, all measures are taken into account in order to help the implementation of a consumption reduction plan. The only one of its kind, this software should soon be available at various launderettes. A revolution is at last taking place on the display shelves of Artistic Fabric Mills (Pakistan) who aim to stock articles with a QR code allowing access to production information for jeans. As an overview, the strategy of the company’s ecology manager is to provide full transparency of the production process: from cotton to the finished garment. This already involves a mix of eco-responsible fibres (bio cotton, cotton BCI, recycled coolmax polyester), a greener dye (reduced amount of water used), a cleaner wash….“This kind of approach which aims to attract the consumer is very new for manufacturers”, outlines Marion Foret. “We are entering the era of global traceability which allows customers to understand the product manufacturing process.” Meanwhile, another world enables the discovery of tomorrow’s denim. This way, the artist Pauline Van Dongen, was able to present Solaar Windbraker: a recycled, waterproof denim jacket featuring solar panels. Concealed within the lining is a battery recharged by means of flexible solar panels thus allowing any mobile technology (telephone, camera, GPS…) to be recharged even with little sun. A smartphone can also be recharged wirelessly. American streetwear brand Rochambeau displayed one of its limited edition jackets with Avery + Evrythng (15 units were marketed in December 2016). Equipped with microchips and QR codes concealed in the lining, it enables access to exclusive content. The wearer can use their smartphone to interact with the technology concealed in the jacket. It offers a tour of New York city and suggests unique points to the user for a personal itinerary (art galleries, shops, events or restaurants).
News Article | May 4, 2017
Although some subindices in the South Africa Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (Sacci’s) April Business Confidence Index (BCI) instantly reacted to President Jacob Zuma’s recent Cabinet reshuffle, the index still improved by 1.1 index points to 94.9 in April from 93.8 in March. The BCI was also only 0.6 index points lower than in April 2016, as less merchandise import volumes, higher energy costs and lower share prices than a year ago, in particular, contributed to the less favourable business climate.
Agency: National Science Foundation | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 150.00K | Year: 2010
This SBIR Phase I project will develop a robust commercial acid-tolerant culture of the anaerobic bacterium Dehalococcoides (Dhc) for in-situ treatment of groundwater contaminated with tetrachloroethene (PCE) and trichloroethene (TCE). The project team will conduct a search of acidic contaminated sites for natural Dhc strains having acid tolerance. The most promising strains will be combined to create a commercial dechlorinating culture. The broader/commercial impact of the proposed project will be the deployment of a bioremediation solution to address and solve many existing acid-caused remediation failures and thereby increase the effectiveness of existing in-situ biological treatment techniques as a cost-effective and successful remedial option to eliminate PCE and TCE from groundwater.
Agency: National Science Foundation | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 150.00K | Year: 2011
This Small BusinessI nnovatio esearch( SBIR) Phase1 project addressesth e developmento f a bacterial culture to degrade PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) in contaminated soils and sediments. PCBs are persistent, toxic contaminants which accumulate in the fatty tissues of animals,c ontaminatingf ish and humans.P CB-degradingb acteriah ave beend ifficult to produce. In2009, a readily-grownb acterials peciesw as shownb y BioremediationC onsultingI nc (BCI) to degrade the most harmful and carcinogenic type of PCBs. This finding allows the development of an anaerobic PCB-degrading culture for cost-etfective inoculation into PCB-contaminated sediments. The proposed research will document the ability of BCI's culture to extensively dechlorinate three types of commercial PCB mixtures, and will develop methods of rapid culturing. The broader/commerciailm pactso f this researcha ret he developmento f a bacteriai noculantt hat will degrade PCBs in soil and sediment. PCBs are toxic chemicals used historically as heatresistant fluids in many industrial applications, including transformers in the electric utility industry. Several hundred million pounds were manufactured and disposed, resulting in contamination of soils and river sediments. The recent finding at BCI, that a strain of dechlorinating bacteria is capable of dechlorinating PCBs. provides an opportunity for BCI to develop a commercial culture for inoculating contaminated sites with PCB-degrading bacteria. The marketing of this product will be complementedb y our already-successfusl aleso f other dechlorinating cultures used in treatment of contamination by diverse chlorinated compounds. Major stakeholdersin the utility industries,a nd remediationc ontractors,h ave expressedin terest in partnering with BCI and/or obtaining culture.