The ultimate reductionist device : 80 billions of neurons condensed into one single universal switch.
An absurd piece of DIY hardware which allows you to use your brainwaves to switch on or off any kind of electric device, such as a light bulb, an electric razor, a sex-toy…
The possibilities are endless !
The modern discoveries of neurosciences are amazing, but one should be careful not to overinterpret them. The main finding is that the brain is actually more complicated and mysterious than we thought ! In particular, to think of the brain as a kind of biological computer is actually something of an oversimplification.
The brainwaves detection techniques(EEG) have been around for more than one century, and this crude technology, which gives only a superficial view of the brain activity, is actually accessible now to any interested amateur and has been considered by artists since the 1950s. On the one hand, it is flexible enough to control some external devices, but on the other hand, one has to keep in mind that it gives only a very limited insight on deep cognitive phenomena such as consciousness, love…
This invitation to question reductionism is brought to you by NNN, an informal group of Parisian neurohackers, active in this field since 2008. Stéphane Degoutin, Guillaume Dumas, Emmanuel Ferrand, Ursula Gastfall, Pascale Gustin, Gérard Parésys, Dominique Peysson, Sam Neurohack, Gwenola Wagon,and many others…
The installation on display is fully functional, but for practical reasons, it is a recording of the barainwaves (Pascale Gustin, Mains d’Oeuvres, march 2013) which controls the Neuroswitch, as, in principle, the plastic head on which the electrodes are shown does not emit any waves! The Neuroswitch in itself is located on the head of the « mononeuronal girl ». Here it controls a light bulb, but could control any other kind of electric device as well. This installation resonates with the videos of Stéphane Degoutin and Gwenola Wagon, which, among other things, evoke the long history of the techniques to look into the brain, as well as the modern fantasm of an outside « world brain » that would be a network of datacenters .
The Neuroswitch is made of open source electronics sur as described in the OPEN EEG PROJECT, some open source and free software ( PURE DATA ) . The precise description of our circuitery, which is an evolution of an earlier project developped for the piece « in between » by Pascale Gustin, Ursula Gastfall and Gérard Parésys, can be found here.
EEG is actually a very old technique, discovered in the XIXth century, used by doctors since the 1930s, and used by artists and musicians since the 1950s (Pierre Henry, Alvin Lucier, etc…). Some slides(in French) about that : Brainwaves-Peysson (Dominique Peysson, Palais de Tokyo, GAKONA project wit Dorkbot Paris, 2009).
Neuroscience is a (too) fertile field for scientific storytellig: check this PROSPECTIVE PARK. More on that soon!