The Senses and Perceptual Fields

Laboratory Files Patent on Meta-sense Technology, Biologists Protest

Biologists are up in arms over a patent granted to Floral Sense Laboratories for a "meta-sensory perceptual field" used in their new robot vision systems. The biologists, and lawyers following the case, claim that, if the patent is upheld in the courts, Floral Sense will be able to levy a charge on every higher organism on the planet, as it is possible that the perceptual mechanisms of all such life is based on this technology.

The patent is for an information processing system that extends the concept of perceptual fields to include mixed perceptual and ideological data. Perceptual fields are the raw information delivered to a processing system from sensory equipment. In essence, the "environment" of these new systems will include, without distinction, raw perceptual information and those "ideas" previously formed by the system about its environment.

Field technology is old and established. The basic idea is that an organism processes a field of information that represents their environment in the same way regardless of the source of the information (for instance, sound and sight are processed by similar (generally pattern-recognition-based) systems at the field level). This allows designers of systems to deal with all input with the same tools, and to more easily anticipate reactions to multiple stimuli.

Although the perceptual model based on field technology has always included mechanisms to alter the field processing based on the current "state" of the system, state has always been modelled as a separate mechanism. These mechanisms were referred to as filtering, or the gestalt. Floral Sense's system, however, introduces the state of the machine directly into the mechanism for understanding the environment. What this means, is a significant simplification of the systems, and a significant advantage for Floral Sense in the ultra-high-stakes military equipment market.

The problem, and the reason for the biologists' angst, is the possibility that higher organisms process information in the same way. By granting the patent, the patent office has declared that any party using this mechanism must acquire the rights to do so from Floral Sense. If it is later proved by biologists that this is the mechanism used by all perceptive creatures, the biologists, or human rights groups will need to mount a massive legal challenge to have the patent thrown out. In the meantime, stock in Floral Sense has gone through the roof.

Patent Filed on Design Machine

Artificial intelligence advocates are hailing today's patent filing by Borg Collective as a landmark in the search for an intelligent machine. The Collective has been conducting research into design centred on the satisfaction of bodily requirements, generally named ergonomics. The fruit of their research, revealed today through the patent filing, is no less than a machine capable of design based solely on the scientific understanding of the requirements of the user.

The machine, which had no comment about its creation, is theoretically capable of producing in excess of 3000 designs per year, but is currently limited by its need to interface with human beings. The Collective plans to set up a channel system similar to that used by mainframe computers, so that many thousands of humans may feed information into the system.

Ergonomics is the scientific analysis of the needs, particularly the bodily needs of the individual, and includes the popular field of colour theory. By generating forms suitable to the require task, and tailoring them to the physical requirements of the user, the machine is able to design precise, efficient elements. Often these elements are possessed of fantastic shapes, as the logic of the underlying analysis alters the form of the product. Although this approach has been attempted by humans, it was widely agreed that these experiments were failures, with some blaming the approach, and others blaming the humans' inability to correctly follow through with the process. Critics of the system have claimed that as interesting as the shapes are, they lack the intellectual depth and attraction of true art. To quote one famous critic; "you scratch the surface and find more surface."

Ignoring this criticism, the Collective is planning an aggressive marketing campaign, targeting, particularly, those design houses that follow the trendy, but often dissatisfying sadistic philosophies. Artificial intelligence advocates are similarly jubilant with the prospect of a technology replacing an entire field of human endeavour.

Government officials are bracing themselves for a flood of layoffs in the design sector, a spokesperson said this afternoon, "We just don't see meaning or intellectual depth competing with pure satisfaction, so we're developing a programme to deal with the fallout. We'll try to get them directed into a profitable sector, something where they can't be replaced by machines. The manufacturing sector has responded quite favourably to our inquiries." So, with designers safely ensconced in new manufacturing jobs, the people satisfied in every imaginable way, and a little machine whirring away in the heart of the Collective, it is truly a bright day for scientific progress.

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Copyright (c) 1997 -- Mike Fletcher
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