Mind Over Kitchen
Dream Team #3: Myron Campbell, Ruth West, Gregor Wolbring

We developed a Flash presentation to illustrate the possibility of using nanotech-enabled thought control in a home. Our Monty Python-esque picture depicts a kitchen containing a stove, a lamp, a fridge, and a broom. On the right side is the image of a person. The flash animation starts by showing the person moving into the kitchen. After that, different animation effects in the kitchen can be initiated by mouse-clicking on different parts of the person's brain/head. Four areas of the person's head can be clicked on.

Clicking one area turns on the lamp in the corner. The room brightens, and the following text is displayed:

Universal Design
We are all familiar with the idea of "ease of use" - things that seem effortless or intuitive to use, the benefits of which we realize just as effortlessly. The ease of use that a "nano-brain-home interface" would offer may seem like a novel concept, but today we are already incorporating many principles of design that aim at a "universal" accessibility. This is the concept of "Universal Design" or, to quote Ron Mace of NC State University's Centre for Universal Design (www.design.ncsu.edu/cud ), the "design of products and environments to be usable by all people to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design". The nano-brain-home interface is an example of an environment designed for use by people of all abilities in ways that readily accommodate individual preferences. It is simple and intuitive to use - regardless of knowledge or language ability - and maximizes flexibility and efficient use of space or resources. It is both an example of the potential future of Universal Design, and a generalizable strategy for realizing its benefits on a broad scale.

Clicking on the second area of the person's brain opens the fridge door, revealing the food inside. The text displayed says:

Nanotechnology is a new emerging technology. The "nano" prefix is normally used to indicate dimensions on the scale of a billionth of a meter. Approximately 3 to 6 atoms can fit inside a nanometer, depending on the atom. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines nanotechnology as the art of manipulating materials on an atomic or molecular scale. Nanotechnology (or nanoscience) enables the emergence of an interdisciplinary approach in which technologies such as (a) nanoscience and nanotechnology; (b) biotechnology and biomedicine; (c) information technology and, (d) cognitive science can converge at the nano scale into the new paradigm of "NBIC" (nano-bio-info-cogno). This paradigm derives from the fact that living systems are governed by molecular behavior at the nanometer scale, where chemistry, physics, biology, and computer science all now converge. The nano home is in essence an NBIC home. Our example of a brain controlled home ("nano-brain-home interface") needs NBIC technology, not just nanotechnology, to work.

Clicking on the third part of the person's brain activates a robotic broom that comes out of the wall and starts sweeping the kitchen floor. The text displayed says:

How it Works
The idea of having your kitchen "magically" cook for you, or be self-cleaning, has enjoyed almost mythical appeal. The concept of a "nano-brain-home interface" could make this "magic" a reality. This interface is one example of the many human-machine or brain-machine interfaces presently being envisioned by science. Current research into brain-machine interfaces is progressing rapidly. Some key aspects relating to how a nano-brain-home interface could physiologically "work" relate to extracting and processing the brain's "codes" for motor or sensory activity (eg., actions such as reaching, walking, hearing) via biochips or other NBIC transmitters implanted in the body, and then creating new materials or manufacturing methods useful for embedding the necessary "sensors" or "feedback" technologies into our built environments - wireless receivers that would take direction from our neural codes, allowing human beings to control devices or other aspects of their environment through their thoughts.

Clicking on the fourth area of the person's brain turns the stove on. The burners become red, and the text displayed says:

Will everyone have access to the "nano-brain-home interface" of the future? If not, how will access to this technology be distributed? Will market forces take precedence? What about the intelligence built into this interface, and the information gathered about the human beings using it? Who will have access to that information? Would third parties be allowed to use the nano-brain-home interface to transmit their "content" (information, entertainment, advertisement, or other) to the human recipient? Is this kind of technology signaling the end of the separation between humans and our environment, especially our built environment? These questions and many more form the core of ethical issues arising from the incorporation of NBIC into our daily lives. While some of these are speculative, essential questions about how to determine what is "ethical" in relation to a new technology's use are recurrent human concerns. Ethics surfaces as an issue when we apply a means to an end, and here the means (NBIC) and its end (a thought controlled environment) offer much in terms of achieving "universal accessibility" as populations age and demographics change. Yet, along with these benefits come challenges such as defining access/resource allocation, control, and accountability.