Minds and Machines: A Conversation with Miguel Nicolelis

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Open Agenda Publishing, Oct 1, 2020 - Medical - 53 pages

This book is based on an in-depth filmed conversation between Howard Burton and Miguel Nicolelis, Professor of Neurobiology, Neurology, Neurosurgery, Biomedical Engineering, Psychology and Neuroscience and Orthopaedic Surgery and Co-Director of the Center for Neuroengineering at Duke University.

This thought-provoking conversation examines Miguel Nicolelis’ extensive and important research for over 20 years now and how he has been blurring the line between science fiction and science fact, developing increasingly sophisticated ways of harnessing the thoughts of rats, monkeys and humans to drive mechanical devices in the rapidly emerging field of brain-machine interfaces. As he continues to explore how best to apply this fascinating technology to liberate paralysis victims and Parkinson’s sufferers from their neurological constraints, Nicolelis remains focused on challenging conventional wisdom of what the brain is and how it works, consistently probing the evolving frontier between body and mind.

This carefully-edited book includes an introduction, From Science Fiction to Science Fact, and questions for discussion at the end of each chapter:

I. Revolutionary Rumblings - Beyond 1:1 maps

II. Plowing Ahead - Pivotal results and scientific scepticism

III. Interface - Powering robots with monkey minds

IV. Against Reductionism - The pernicious influence of physicists

V. Incarnating Our Surroundings - How the brain blurs “outside” and “inside”

VI. Imposing Representations - How the brain interacts with the world

VII. Distributed vs. Local - The big issue

VIII. Technological Applications - From medical rehabilitation to a joint operating system

IX. Getting Metaphysical - The brain as a reality-mediator

X. Final Questions - Big ones, dark ones and ontological ones

About Ideas Roadshow Conversations Series: 

This book is part of an expanding series of 100+ Ideas Roadshow conversations, each one presenting a wealth of candid insights from a leading expert in a relaxed and informal setting to give non-specialists a uniquely accessible window into frontline research and scholarship that wouldn't otherwise be encountered through standard lectures and textbooks.


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Incarnating Our Surroundings
Imposing Representations
Distributed vs Local
Technological Applications
Getting Metaphysical
Final Questions

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About the author (2020)

Howard Burton, the founder and creator of Ideas Roadshow and Ideas on Film, holds a PhD in theoretical physics and an MA in philosophy. He was the Founding Executive Director of Canada’s Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (PI) from 1999-2007. During his time at PI, he also developed an extensive outreach programme for teachers, students and the general public. His experiences at developing the research and outreach mandates of the institute were described in the book First Principles: Building Perimeter Institute, featuring a foreword by renowned theoretical physicist Roger Penrose.

Ideas Roadshow is an award-winning initiative, recipient of the London Book Fair International Excellence Award in 2018. Howard has hosted and filmed in-depth conversations with more than 100 of the world’s brightest thinkers, including 3 Nobel Laureates, across the arts, sciences, sports and games.

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