The following is an article by KEISUKE OKI on VIRTUAL HAZE, an art work shown at ISEA94.


The robots of writer Isaac Asimov seem to derive from some analogy with pet animals. In particular, the response to humans of Robbie, a robot appearing in I, ROBOT, reminds me of a big dog who sometimes bites his keeper. But if Robbie follows some rules, the Three Laws of Robotics in this case, he will be admitted as a family member.

In the real world, machines' recognition ability seems to not even reach the animal level. Without human assistance, machines are not yet given rights to judge things by themselves, even in the most advanced technological area such as computer-aided military technology. However, it is not a dream that someday machines will feel, become jealous, joke, read minds, and do whatever else people do.

When we at DTI made the work VIRTUAL HAZE, the second work in our series of art works using brainwaves, our biggest concern was how to make a computer react to various brain states through the sensing of brainwaves - in other words, the process of reading minds. However, I didn't want to think of it as 'mind reading,' as I thought it was something different from 'brain reading'. Mind is not a physical entity but the brain is. The brain accumulates knowledge, experience, etc. as data. Comparing the brain to a computer, the mind could be seen as an image on the monitor. It is a phenomenon resulting from processing by brain hardware.

It is, however, not clear how we distinguish mind from brain terminologically. The field of psychology takes up mind as its subject, describing the brain without clear definition. This is typical not only of psychology. Even in Marvin Minsky's THE SOCIETY OF MIND, an element called 'agents' is used to explain how mind is formed. Although the book describes how the mind functions, Minsky doesn't define the boundary between mind and brain either. Presumably, the distinction is not important to him in the context of his theory, which contends that minds are like societies which grow from the child stage to the adult. In chapter 1.2, 'THE MIND AND THE BRAIN', Minsky names some predecessors: psychologists producing theories about child development, like Sigmund Freud and Jean Piaget; mathematicians on the mechanical side who 'began to reveal the hitherto unknown range of what machines could be made to do' like Kurt Godel and Alan Turing; and Warren McCulloch and Walter Pitts, who began to merge these two streams and 'showed how machines might be made to see, reason, and remember' in the 1940s. Minsky also mentions research into the science of Artificial Intelligence (on which he is an authority) starting in the 1950s, which was 'stimulated by the invention of modern computers.' These descriptions may reveal how Minsky constructed the context of his theory. Or some one already can sense how he develops the theory in early pages of the book, as simply as a formula, like 'Freud+Turing+Artificial Intelligence=THE SOCIETY OF THE MIND'. I am left to wonder why he entitled the chapter THE MIND AND THE BRAIN without delving into the difference between them.

In DTI's art works, the brain, not the mind, plays roles including that of joy stick, interface, processing unit, etc. Naturally the brain is a multi-purpose control unit; what we mainly focus on is the extension of its control function. We have tried to extend this function beyond the body with two art works in the past. You can make physical phenomena happen by changing your brainwave frequency, if you get accustomed to controlling it.

With BRAIN WAVE RIDER, the first work to use brainwaves, you control the speed, accompanied by sounds and vibration, of a vehicle racing through a computer-graphic landscape. The speed changes according to the frequency; higher frequency gets you faster speed.

The second work, VIRTUAL HAZE, is a war game; you can shoot down enemy UFOs by producing beta waves, or warp to another stage without fighting if you achieve alpha waves. Otherwise you will be shot by enemies if you don't concentrate on the battle, as one of the computers used for this game is capable of reading the state of your brain and judging whether you are really willing to fight. If you don't concentrate on fighting, the computer will counter your attack, this time with an infrared ray gun. Machine versus human.

Similar technology is applied to some safety devices for operating machines or vehicles. These devices analyze brainwaves, and shut down operation for the drowsy operator if they detect brainwaves of a lower frequency at certain times.

This sort of relationship between man and machine will be be expanding in fields where 'decisions at the speed of electronic circuitry' are essential. The biggest need lies in the military field, where quick decisions give strategical superiority - 'move faster, kill better, and live longer than the enemy.' An article in the September 1994 WIRED, 'Cyber-Deterrence,' reports on the 194th brigade of the US Army, which is literally a high-tech army: 'at the high end of the lethality spectrum, the Americans had top-of-the-line M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks, each carrying an information system that collected real-time battlefield data from airplanes, satellites, and unmanned aerial vehicles. At the low end were the "21st Century Land Warriors" (also called "warfighters" but never "soldiers" or "infantry") who came equipped with day-and night-vision scopes mounted on their M-16s, video camera, and 1-inch LED screens attached to their kevlar helmets. The 486 computers in their rucksacks were wired to radios that could send voice or digital-burst communications to a battle command vehicle coordinating the attack through a customized Windows program.'

Paul Virilio talks about the central electronic-warfare administration in chapter 1, 'Military Force IS Based upon Deception,' of his book WAR AND CINEMA: The Logistics of Perception. The administration is based on "the so-called '3Ci' (control, command, communication, intelligence)" which attends "in real time to the images and data of a planetary conflict." The book was written in the days of Ronald Reagan, whose Star Wars project, a space-based anti-ballistic-missile system relying on lasers and mirrors, was slated for establishment by the year 2000. The project never came about due to the end of Cold war and the budget shortage. However, '3Ci' has survived the Gulf war and following conflicts over the world, and has been inherited by military units like the 194th brigade.

In the same book, Virilio says 'weapons are tools not just of destruction but also of perception - that is to say, stimulants that make themselves felt through chemical, neurological process in the sense organs and the nervous system, affecting human reactions and even the perceptual identification and differentiation of objects'. Military technology becomes more and more perceptual and seeks decisions- making at the speed of electronic circuitry, which should be far faster than the human brain.

'By tracing the history of the modern war machine at each one of these levels (weapons, tactics, strategy and logistics) we will be able to understand the role that computer technology has come to play in the automation of the commander's task,' Manuel De Landa points out in his War in the Age of Intelligent Machines.

However, technologically we are still at the beginning. With the exception of some examples like pilotless aircraft and unmanned tanks, which are intelligent enough to select and destroy their own targets, it is said that the role of machines is still at the "advisory" level and not the "executive" level. But the evolution will certainly take place.

What will happen when machines replace human commanders? De Landa comments interestingly: 'the efforts of military institutions to get humans out of the loop have been a major influence in the development of computer technology. The birth of autonomous weapons systems, of war games played by automata, of production systems that pace and discipline the worker, all are manifestations of this military drive. But. . . even though humans are being replaced by machines, the only schemes of control that can give robots the means to replace them are producing another kind of independent "will" which may also "resist" military domination'.

With our VIRTUAL HAZE, as I mentioned before, the computer reads brainwave and counters attacks if it detects its enemy's failure to concentrate on the battle. This sort of thing may be applied to real military technology.

Prior to the start of replacing human commanders with machines, the latter already are available to collect any data regarding soldiers. This may include physical data, even brainwaves, of soldiers. The WIRED article envisions: 'In a real war in the near future a video camera would record the body damage. In this case the medic popped the disk into a portable PowerBook to discover that his victim had a sucking chest wound. The image was digitized and transferred via a radiolink to a triage unit in the rear, where a doctor talked the medic through the treatment of the wounded soldier.' If said soldier were to get receive a head injury, it would be natural to transfer his brainwave data to the rear. Soldiers' physical data become a military secret on the battlefield.

As De Landa says in the above-mentioned article, will independent will be able to resist military domination? I have been wondering about this since I saw the computer precisely counter my attack in our art work. I think that in order to evade the counter attack from the computer, I may have to implant some device into my brain to change the brainwave frequency so as not to be detected. But, are cyberpunkish ideas like BRAIN IMPLANTS or WIREHEADS the best solution?


translated by Patrick Camiller VERSO
4. JAMES DER DERIAN "Cyber-Deterrence" WIRED September, 1994
5. MANUEL DE LANDA " War in the Age of Intelligent Machines"
Keisuke Oki