The Specter of Employees Past

Courtesy of  wheelie.global2.vic.edu.au

By Carl Weiss

Everyone has heard of the ghost in the machine, right? You know the one about the person who use to work at your company who did something that had a major impact on the way things work? Now everyone has to follow some rule or methodology just to make sure things go as planned. Their legacy, good or bad permanently changed things forever.  Well, today’s blog is a twist on that theme. We explore the problems that occur as the result of employees being fired or put out to pasture.  Like it or not, having to deal with the digital footprints left by former staffers can be problematic to say the least.  In the best case scenario, someone needs to be assigned to pick up where they left off in areas such as social networking, file management and even online security.  In the worst case, former employees have been known to rifle their employer’s server, plant malware or even lock their former bosses out of their own systems.  Before you start experiencing digital things that go bump in the night, let’s take a hard look at a number of cases involving the ghosts of employees past.

Terminated Employee Turns Terminator

In 2010, a major defense contractor (Lockheed) had its email system crashed for six hours after one terminated employee sent 60,000 coworkers a personal email laced with malware. The contractor was then forced to fly in a Microsoft rescue squad to repair the damage.
Courtesy of  www.erinpassons.com

More recently, a terminated computer technician at a New York publisher (Forbes) caused five of the publisher’s servers to crash.  As a result all the information that had been stored on the servers was erased and none of the data was able to be restored. The losses sustained were in excess of $100,000.

If you think that’s bad, an engineering firm suffered $10 million in losses when a terminated network manager unleashed a data bomb in the network he helped create.

Bear in mind that the defense contractor, the publisher and the engineering firm were all major players that had in their employ teams of skilled programmers and technicians whose job it was to safeguard their electronic assets.  If they’re vulnerable to attack by former insiders, what do you think that says about the cyber security of smaller firms?

Beyond eSabotage – The Attack Becomes Personal

Far from being relegated to eSabotage, disgruntled former employees have been known to get personal when they are out for revenge.  A blog by hitc.com called, “10 Ways Fired Employees Got Revenge on their Bosses,” included the following:

“A former IT manager received a suspended jail sentence for illegally hacking into his old company’s IT systems and rigging his former boss’s Powerpoint presentation to display
Courtesy of  article.wn.com
pornographic photos.”

“An unhappy ex-employee who was made redundant, hacked into his bosses email and sent obscene messages to the senior management team and the company 
board.”

“A disgruntled ex-employee posted a listing for 'free household and garage contents', quoting his former boss's address. The listing claimed the homeowners were moving to Puerto Rico and didn't want to keep anything. The ad indicated anyone could come down and take whatever they want. Investigators say the listing gave directions to the home, and even provided the garage code.”

“An angry employee who was given 4 weeks notice used the company credit card to get a year’s supply of 'male enhancement' pills delivered to a variety of senior staff around the office.”

Are you starting to detect a pattern here?  Hell hath no fury like an employee burned.  Terminated employees have been known to do everything from destroying equipment or a company’s reputation, to taking out their frustration on bosses or coworkers who they feel were responsible for their downfall.  In today’s wired world, it’s all too easy for anyone to talk trash online.  Worse is when an ex-employee has uncovered a boss or coworker’s password in order to make it seem as though the victim is the one who was talking trash.

While terminating an employee is always an unpleasant task, it is important to remember that not all those who are fired are going to take the matter lying down.  The problem is that while most businesses have some form of hiring manual, I have yet to see a company create a firing manual.  Aside from brushing off the psychological shock to the system that being terminated has on most people, the majority of HR departments in businesses large and small as a rule shrug off creating procedures that can mitigate the damage likely to be caused by former employees.

Things to do Before Terminating Someone

Courtesy of  digital-receiver-dansat-software.software.filedudes.com
It goes without saying that all companies need to have a policy manual spelling out employee conduct and also have a plan in place that deals with both good and bad employee conduct. It not only need to spell out what the negative behaviors are, but what to do when an employee is acting in a negative way. I suggest that any time an employee steps out of line, that an entry of their behavior be recorded in the file and that they be brought in for review and then be put on probation. This review needs to spell out the consequences and it is at this point (way before eSabotage can take place) that safeguards be put in place to protect the company and monitor the employee further. Have a plan to try and improve the performance.  Your Discipline needs to be progressive in nature. You also have to make sure you are not firing anyone because of age, sex, race, religion, disability or national origin because doing so can lead to a very expensive lawsuit. You cannot fire someone for revenge for exposing your behavior as well.  Also employee policies cannot be cherry picked or selectively enforced in any way, this too can lead to a law suit. Make sure you have a consensus of all departments and those depended on that employees work. Understand the full consequences of firing that person. Once you have covered all your bases from a policy and procedure aspect, make sure you now look at your IT security and other data vulnerabilities.

Take Care of These Top Five Security Risks

Here are the top 5 items that need to be addressed before any employee is given his or her walking papers:

1.      How much access does the employee have to the company’s servers and intranet?
2.      What kind of company communication is the employee privy to?
3.      Does the employee have a company-issued smartphone, tablet or laptop?
4.      How long will it take you to change or delete all related company passwords?
5.      What email lists, customer lists and company intranets does the employee have access?

While every company automatically restricts an ex-employees access to the company’s premises and bank accounts, you’d be surprised to learn how few conduct an audit of all the electronic means through which an employee can gain access to potentially disruptive technology.  Don’t find out the hard way like the folks who manage Chicago O’Hare Airport.  In September 2014, more than 2,000 flights were cancelled and pandemonium ensued when an employee who was facing a transfer, sabotaged the air traffic control center after posting a suicide note on Facebook.

A quote from Business Insider read:
Courtesy of  www.deathandtaxesmag.com
“Authorities say a contract employee started a fire Friday morning in the basement of a control center in the Chicago suburb of Aurora and then attempted to commit suicide by slashing his throat. Brian Howard, 36, of Naperville, was charged with destruction of aircraft or aircraft facilities, a felony. The FBI said Howard remains hospitalized and no court date has been scheduled.”
“As of midday Saturday, total Chicago flight cancelations for the day stood at more than 700 — still a damagingly high number, but an improvement. Southwest Airlines, the dominant carrier at Midway, had hoped to resume a full flight schedule Saturday, but had to cancel all flights between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. CDT.”
“Lines remained long at O'Hare, which is a major U.S. hub. Many travelers stranded overnight slept on cots provided by the airport, in scenes reminiscent of winter storm disruptions.”
Neither the FBI nor the TSA had any comment to make regarding the incident.  Republican Senator Mark Kirk had this to say:
"Chicago O'Hare International Airport cannot be brought to a screeching halt.  I want to see not only an immediate review by the FAA of the screening process at the Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center in Aurora, but also a report within 30 days outlining changes the FAA will make to prevent any one individual from having this type of impact on the heart of the United States economy."
The moral of the story is that even after spending billions of dollars to keep out terrorists and hijackers, all it took to shut down one of the world’s busiest airports was a disgruntled employee with a gas can and a match.  With that in mind, if you own or manage a business that hires and fires, you need to take steps to ensure your firm isn’t blindsided by the ghosts of employees past.

In this article I have explored many of the dangers businesses inherited when they adopted the electronic rich internet connected world we live in today. Since all companies have some form of electronic infrastructure, all are vulnerable in some way to electronic Sabotage (eSabotage). This article provides many examples of how employees who were fired created mass havoc for the companies they left by sabotaging that companies email systems and servers. Many links and details are provided for the reader to explore this subject further.

If you found this article useful please share it with your friends, family and co-works. If you would like to learn more about this subject, visit the notes page on this blog for the BlogTalkRadio show dated 6/29/15. I recommend check out "Cyberstalking for Fun & Profit - Is There a Cyber Stalker in Your Future?" or "Your Online Reputation Can Either Make You or Break You".  You can also search for other related articles by typing in “internet security” in the search box in the upper left hand corner of this blog.

If you'd like a free copy of our eBook, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st Century," please fill in the form below and give you immediate access to it. Your information is always kept private and is never sold.


Carl Weiss is president of Working the Web to Win, an award-winning digital marketing agency based in Jacksonville, Florida.  You can listen to Carl live every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern on BlogTalkRadio

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The Robots Are Coming - Are You Ready?

Will our New Bot's be our Buddies or cause us Robot Rage?

Courtesy of  en.wikipedia.org
By Carl Weiss

Is there a robot or android in your future? More importantly, what will the ultimate effect on society be once robots start taking over. How will what has until now, been a unique human experience change? Until recently, robots, (aka androids for star Trek fans or droids for Star Wars fans)  have for the most part been relegated to factories and the living room rug. But all that is about to change. A number of firms are currently making robots that are designed to work alongside us in warehouses, retail establishments and offices. More importantly, as these droids become more autonomous, will they slowly but surely push their human counterparts out of the picture altogether? Will their growing intelligence become a threat to the human species itself, as a number of scientists believe? Whether human beings embrace these automated assistants as a boon, or people begin to rage against the machines that were meant to help them, is still too soon to tell. Love them or hate them, join me today as I take a look at the rise of the robots in the 21st century.

In the Beginning - There Were Robots, Really?

Courtesy of  en.wikipedia.org
Contrary to popular opinion, robots are hardly what one would call a recent invention.  As far back as 350 B.C., robots have been a reality.  That’s when the Greek mathematician Archytas crafted a mechanical pigeon that got its motive power via steam.  The middle ages saw a number of automata created, including a robotic musical band to an automated waitress that would serve drinks.  Leonardo DaVinci himself drew up detailed plans for a mechanized medieval knight.  Although it was never built, other imitators took delight in creating a number of “machines” that were designed to mystify and delight royalty and commoner alike.

The chief difference between these early automata and todays robots was chiefly due to the fact that with notable exceptions, these robots were only intended to mimic the living creatures around them.  They were never designed to carry out the tasks that these living creatures performed.  That all changed in 1801, when Joseph Jacquard built a totally automated loom that was programmed with punched cards.  While this innovation represented the earliest form of software, the punch card was still being used to program computers more than 200 years later.

Alan Turing Statue at Bletchley Park - geograp...
Alan Turing Statue at Bletchley Park -
geograph.org.uk - 1591025 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It wasn’t until the advent of World War II that the digital computer was first created by Alan Turing to help the Allies beat the German Enigma code machine.  Fifteen years after the end of the war, it was also Turing that published the book Computing Machinery and Intelligence, in which he postulated a test that was designed to determine whether a machine had attained the power of intelligent thought.  It became known as the Turing Test and to date no robot has yet passed the test.

That does not mean that the rise of robot intelligence has not progressed.  Since the 1960’s when the first industrial robots were introduced, automation has continued to make inroads in the industry.  Today’s auto factories are 90% robotized.  Amazon warehouses continue to become more automated.  (They are lobbying the FAA to let them use drones to deliver packages.)  Yet with the exception of big business, few of us work cheek to jowl with robots in the office.  Sure, you might see a Roomba Robot scurrying across the office floor in search of those ever elusive dust bunnies.  But at this juncture, if you have a secretary or office assistant, he or she is made of flesh and blood. 

BeamPro Gives Remote Orders a New Meaning

While teleconferencing has been reducing the need for busy executives to fly the friendly sky, until recently the conferences were relegated to conference rooms and boardrooms.  But an enterprising company called Suitable Technologies recently introduced a 5-foot tall rolling robot called BeamPro that takes teleconferencing to the streets. (Or, at least the hallway.)  Think of BeamPro like a tablet pc on wheels, because that is essentially what it is.  The bot allows busy executives the ability not only to interface with far flung colleagues and employees, but it provides mobility that enables said executives to roam the halls of an office across town or around the world.  Equipped with webcam and speakers, BeamPro is kind of like a corporate nanny cam on steroids, since it not only allows the boss to keep watch on his staff, but it also enables the executive to interface with and direct the action of far flung staffers. 

While this bot threatens to undermine the “While the boss is away, the staff will play” mentality prevalent at many offices, it is still a far cry from replacing said staff.  Nor does it assist the current staff in performing their duties. (Unless having a full-time robotic office Nazi can be considered helpful to overworked and underpaid employees.)  However, that doesn’t mean that help isn’t on the way.

Baxter and His Buddies Can Work Along Your Side

While office automation has come a long way, that doesn’t mean you can order a robotic office assistant that can take a letter.  But there is a robot made by Rethink Robotics named Baxter that could put a new face on your shipping department… literally. 

Check out Baxter on Youtube

Where science fiction has usually characterized robots as replacing their human counterparts, Baxter is actually designed to work alongside them.  If you have ever seen automated factories where robots are kept like caged animals that are too dangerous to be allowed near their flesh and blood coworkers, Baxter was designed from the ground up to be user (and human) friendly. The homepage at RethinkRobotics.com sums it up as follows,

“If you walk the floor of your facility and see lightweight parts being handled near people, you’ve likely just found a great job for Baxter.  This smart, collaborative robot is ready to get to work for your company – doing the monotonous tasks that free up your skilled human labor to be exactly that. Baxter is safe to operate next to in production environments, without the need for caging – saving money and valuable floor space.  Baxter deploys quickly and connects seamlessly to other automation – often without third party integration.  With Baxter, no traditional programming is required. Instead, it’s manually trainable by in-house staff, reducing the time and cost of third party programmers.”

Designed with a “Monkey see, monkey do” programming subroutine where employees literally show Baxter how to accomplish a task, this in one easy-to-employ bot.  At a base price of $25,000, and his one-armed counterpart Sawyer could be just the ticket for etailers and cottage industry production facilities that perform a lot of repetitive tasks involved in everything from packaging and material handling to machine tending and line loading.  Still, with their limited mobility, tinker toy looking appendages and industrial demeanor, even these handy droids are unlikely to give your receptionist a run for her money any time soon.

Here Come the Humanoid Droids

What most of us are waiting (or dreading) to arrive are robots that can walk, talk and act a little more like a human being.  DARPA recently completed its Robotics Challenge where teams of human robotics experts competed for millions of dollars in prizes.  Their task was to create ambulatory robots that were required to complete a number of disaster response tasks, including driving a rescue vehicle, walking through rubble, climbing stairs and turning valves.  Twenty three teams from around the world fielded robots and three teams shared $3.5 million in prize money, including South Korea’s Team Kaist and two teams from the US, IHMC Robotics and Tartan Rescue.  

Check out the DARPA Challenge Winners

No matinee idols by any stretch of the imagination, while these robots can move like a human, their looks assure this writer that if you weren’t completely incapacitated, these robotic rescuers would in all likelihood scare most of us to death. 

The Cute Robots Prize Goes to?

While most research has gone into giving robots the ability to walk and talk like people, few have given aesthetics much thought.  However, there are a couple of notable exceptions such as motor car manufacturer Honda that has been working diligently on a lively little bipedal droid that while not exactly cute as a button, does have a persona less derivative of an industrial monstrosity. 

Check out Asimos Latest video on YouTube

Able to walk, talk, run, climb stairs and as President Obama discovered during a trip to Japan, kick a soccer ball, this lively little android has been under development for nearly 20 years.  Unlike the industrial manipulators that most bots come equipped, Asimo’s “hands” have four fingers and a thumb just like you and I.  Looking like a 4’3” astronaut, replete with backpack, this humanoid robot is not currently for sale commercially.  However, the little guy has become something of a robot ambassador, having travelled to and performed in dozens of countries worldwide.  http://asimo.honda.com/

I’m a Pepper, You’re a Pepper – Wait What’s a Pepper?

More importantly, while Asimo may be a giant step in robot evolution, he is still not something you are likely to introduce to your parents.  That’s where Pepper comes in.  Designed with an emotional engine that has been designed to read everything from body language to voice inflection, this little robot is even cuter than Asimo.  Better still, the little droid has been designed with a specific purpose in mind, to be a companion.  While Pepper can’t climb stairs, it is still able to roll around on wheels set into its base.  More importantly, Pepper is for sale, at least in Japan, for around $1,600 + $200/month in service fees.  Created by Softbank and backed by Foxconn Technology Group and Alibaba, when Pepper was put on sale on June 20, 1,000 units were sold in the first minute, forcing Softbank to suspend sales.

Here Softbank's latest video on Pepper in Japan

Before you reach for your wallet, you also need to understand what Pepper can and can’t do.  While the little droid can hold a conversation, react to your emotions and respond autonomously, he doesn’t cook, clean or vacuum the rugs.  He has one and only one task and that is to be a companion.  However, that doesn’t mean he can’t earn his keep.  Softbank mobile, one of the prime cellphone operators in Japan, as well as Pepper’s creator, have been employing him in their retail outlets as a greeter.  Last year, another Japanese firm, Nestle Japan “employed” Pepper in its appliance stores in order to sell Nescafe coffee machines.  Said, Nestle Japan’s CEO Kohzoh Takaoka,
"Pepper will be able to explain Nescafe products and services and engage in conversation with consumers.”
Beginning this fall, Softbank and its marketing partners are expected to roll out a special business model of the robot named, “Pepper for Biz.”  The success of Softbank’s initial rollout has also propelled a number of other entrepreneurs into the game.  How long will it be before you can purchase or lease a NannyBot to mind your kids or your elderly parents?  With the government’s increased use of drones and warbots, can it be all that far off before security droids come to a warehouse near you?  And it would seem like child’s play to craft robotic lawnmowers that roll out of a truck to tend to your lawn.

Courtesy of  en.wikipedia.org
Let’s face it, once the robotic genie is let out of the bottle, there will be no way to put it back.  This means that robots intended to “assist” us will soon transmogrify into androids that can replace us.  As the units get more sophisticated and autonomous, will it be long before jobs currently being performed by humans are taken over by robots?  Or worse, how long will it be before robots reach a point in understanding deemed a singularity by researchers, at which point they will become self-aware.  A number of notable scientists and industrialists, including Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have warned that once robots become on par with humans on an intellectual level, there is a real possibility that they will decide that they no longer require or desire to share the planet with their human counterparts. 

Also, there is a real danger that once people begin to be replaced in the workplace by robots they could well rise up to picket and boycott the companies that formerly employed them.  I could see protest marches and civil disobedience taking place as people become displaced and dispossessed.   Political and religious leaders will be mobilized to thwart this inhuman form of slavery.  I can see the headlines now, “Al Sharpton takes on AI.”

My point is that robotics and artificial intelligence are going to be the mother of all two-edged swords that the wired world will soon be forced to deal with.  Whether the verdict will ultimately be bot buddies or robot rage is still too early to compute.  But if Terry Gou of Foxconn and Jack Ma of Alibaba are right, robots could soon be as important as the automobile in the coming decades.  That means we’ll all have to deal with the debate regarding robot rights a lot sooner than you think.

In this article I have explored some of the benefits and threats that robotic brings to the human experience. I discuss many of the current contenders that are looking to help humans cope with various issues or possibly even replace humans in the workplace. Links and details are provided for the reader to explore this subject further.

If you found this article useful please share it with your friends, family and co-works. If you would like to learn more about this subject, visit the notes page on this blog for the BlogTalkRadio show dated 6/23/15. I recommend check out "The Next Generation - Putting Your Best Robot Forward" or "Birth of the Bionic Man".  You can also search for other related articles by typing in robotics or cybernetic in the search box in the upper left hand corner of this blog.

If you'd like a free copy of our eBook, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st Century," please fill in the form below and we'll email it to you. Your information is always kept private and is never sold.



Carl Weiss is president of Working the Web to Win, an award-winning digital marketing agency based in Jacksonville, Florida.  You can listen to Carl live every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern on BlogTalkRadio



The Basics of Biohacking

Hand with planned insertion point for Verichip...
Hand with planned insertion point for
Verichip device (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
By Carl Weiss

Is your body letting you down?  How much time out of your daily schedule do you relinquish for exercise?  Are you tired of moving heaven and earth to support that bag of chemicals and water we call our bodies?  Do you wish you could enhance your senses or even add new capabilities to your existing body?  While this used to be the realm of science fiction only a few years ago, current and rapidly emerging technologies allow you to repair, replace or enhance that old bag of bones here and now.  In this week's Working the Web to Win blog, I will take you into the lab to explore bio-tech that is being used to repair, replace or enhance human beings.  I will also introduce you to a new cult of devotees who are ready, willing and able to undergo painful medical procedures to take the cyborg plunge and bio-hack their way to a better life. 

Courtesy of  en.wikipedia.org
Now I know what you’re thinking. Only a few people are actually augmenting their bodies with these cybernetic implants and the like. Well, I disagree. The reality is humans have been augmenting our bodies for thousands of years. The way I see it - human augmentation falls into three categories. The first level wearables or attachable items. A partial list of items would include; clothing, shoes, hearing aids, eyeglasses, false teeth, binoculars, bicycles, watches, activity trackers, and environmental suits (scuba, space, exosuits etc.). The second level of augmentation includes items like implanted teeth, eye lens, joint implants, and regular prosthetics etc. … The last level includes such items as limb replacements with smart prosthetics, smart mechanical organs, biologically enhanced organs and more sophisticated, smart versions of level one and two augmentations like strength and speed enhancing exosuits.
           
The Pioneering of Body Modification

Courtesy of Steve Haworth YouTube.com
The name Steve Haworth isn’t exactly a household word.  At least not yet.  Unlike the other two Steve’s of Apple Computer fame, Steve Haworth has not yet achieved the level of rock star geek status that Jobs and Woz did.  But he could well be on his way.  That’s because he is one of the pioneers of body modification who routinely performs surgery on people looking to add enhancements to their body.  Since he is not a board certified surgeon, this means that these procedures are done without the aid of anesthetic, unless you count ice. 

Although Haworth’s family has long been associated with medical device engineering, Steve cut his teeth in the 90’s by dabbling with body piercing, 3D tattoos and something called the Metal Mohawk.  (You can’t make this stuff up folks.)  Fast forward fifteen years and Steve’s modifications are now more sci-fi than technopunk.  One of the enhancements that Steve routinely performs is the surgical implantation of rare earth magnets.  Now I know what you’re thinking, “Why would anybody pay to get turned into a refrigerator magnet?” 

Well, it’s a little more complicated than that.  While Steve and other bio-hacking enthusiasts have posted videos which show them moving metal objects with the magnetic field generated by their enhanced digits, apparently there is another side effect of the procedure.  Apparently this enhancement also provides the recipient with a virtual Spidey sense that allows them to perceive magnetic fields.  For $350 you too can experience the pulse of electric motors, junction boxes, high tension wires and any device that imparts a magnetic field. 
                             

Cyborg DIY, Really?

Of course, there are more ways to enhance your senses than by simply implanting magnets.  Adventurous people have implanted everything from RFID chips that allows them to control nearby devices, turn on and off the lights, not to mention open their garage door without the use of a clicker.  There is another popular procedure called Southpaw that involves the implantation of a compass that in essence turns you into a homing pigeon by letting you sense kinesthetically when you are facing north.  (I should probably get one of these for my mother, since she is terrible when it comes to following directions.) 

You can also have computer chips implanted that sense your biometric data, turning you into the human equivalent of a FitBit.  Others have had led lights implanted beneath their skin, turning them into a cross between a tattoo and a casino marquis.  While most of the devices are tiny, I have seen at least one adventurous lad named Ted Cannon, who had a device the size of a smartphone implanted beneath the skin of his forearm.  You can view his video interview on his blog which also show the implanted device in his arm     (Just make sure you haven’t eaten recently.)


More telling is that Ted’s company, Grindhouse Wetware, builds devices that are designed to integrate with the human body. 

Geordi LaForge of Star Trek Fame Would be Proud,

Courtesy of  https://www.flickr.com
Aside from “DIYborgs”, there are also apparently “eyeborgs”, a la “Geordi LaForge” of Star Trek fame.  This was the character in the Next Generation series played by LeVar Burton.  Having been born blind, “Geordi” sported a pair of high tech spectacles that not only permitted him to see, he could see light spectra that no human eye could, including infrared, ultraviolet and radio waves.  While today’s version of Star Trek tech isn’t quite as extraordinary as that of “Geordi LaForge”, it’s getting there.  Scientists have already reverse-engineered the retina and created an app that not only reproduces its operation, but it allows a camera to be connected through the optic nerve.  In principle, this enhancement could be used to augment the tiny fraction of the light spectrum we currently are able to see.  Holy x-ray vision, Batman!  (Another group in England is conducting experiments with an implantable lens that can not only provide perfect 20/20 vision to all you who wear glasses, but they claim the lens even provides a zoom capability.)

Not so Happy - Happy Meal With DIY?

On the other side of the coin, there are people who are so unconcerned with appearances that they will risk ridicule, or even worse, to possess enhanced abilities.  One of these acolytes is Steve Mann, who has become something of a biohacking legend since he was forcibly ejected from a McDonald’s restaurant in Paris France when he walked into the establishment sporting what amounts to a DIY version of Google Glass.  The chief difference was that Steve Mann’s glasses were bolted to his head.  Referred to as the “Father of Wearable Computing,” he has been making a techno fashion statement for years. 

While much of the biohacking scene has been taking place in basements and back alleys, that doesn’t mean that the phenomenon hasn’t garnered academic attention.  One notable is Captain Cyborg, otherwise known as Kevin Warwick, professor of cybernetics at Coventry University.  Ina 2013 interview in Forbes Magazine that took place in Warwick’s office, which writer Emma Byrne described as “a cross between a toyshop and Tony Stark’s basement,” the professor was asked which project he was most proud.

Courtesy of  en.wikipedia.org
“No question, it would have to be when I hooked up with my wife.”  He’s not talking about dating: In 2002, he and his wife Irena installed matching implants that recorded signals from their central nervous systems.  They were able to correctly identify each other’s nerve signals around 98% of the time.

“Sam Morse, the inventor of Morse code, talked about brain-to-brain communication.  He sorted out the distance, but he still needed that physical interface, the finger on the key.  Over the years we’ve made loads of improvements in bandwidth and distance, but we still haven’t got past the interface problem.”

Like Steve Haworth’s rare earth magnets, the brain-to-brain interface Dr. Warwick shared with his wife was more akin to a sixth sense than mere communication.  (How many men reading this would love to never be asked again what they are thinking by their wives?)  More significantly, it’s this extrasensory perception that has Warwick and other researchers interested in exploring the possibilities yet further.  When asked about the possibilities as well as the perils in experimenting with the human body, Warwick replied,

“When Alexander Graham Bell made the first phone call, at first people couldn’t see the point in what he was doing.  What’s the point of the first phone?  But it didn’t stop there.  I think what I’m doing is like that.  Maybe when I’ve been dead ten years people will go, ‘Oh! That’s what that was for.’  What you do in terms of prizes and degrees and all that – that’s absolutely nothing.  It’s when you do something no one’s done before.  When you push it, that’s what’s exciting.”

While that may hold true, advances in augmentation from science and medicine like joint replacement and heart transplantation moved us forward, these new augmentations may very well become commonplace in the near future. Having seen and become aware of this trend, I can’t help thinking that somewhere the ghost of Mary Shelley is spinning in her grave saying - “It’s Alive!”

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In this article I have explored how cybernetic augmentation is no longer only in the realm of science fiction – but instead, are part of modern day fact. I have provided many specific examples of cybernetic augmentation that is taking place right now in the world. Humans have been augmenting our capabilities for thousands of years. What started out as humans adding furs to improve our survival rate has continue today with cybernetic augmentation - including new implants and smart limb replacements - a la the Borg of Star Trek Fame.
           
If you’d like to read similar articles about cybernetics, check out: “A Borg in Every Boardroom - Cyber Augmentation for All" and "Birth of the Bionic Man" or just type your Keywords into the search box at the top left of this blog.

If you'd like a free copy of our eBook, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st Century," please fill in the form below and we'll email it to you. Your information is always kept private and is never sold.


Carl Weiss is president of Working the Web to Win, an award-winning digital marketing agency based in Jacksonville, Florida.  You can listen to Carl live every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern on BlogTalkRadio

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