Previous Next Title Page Index Contents Site Index

9. Spatio-Temporal Perspectives: A new way for cognitive enhancement

Dr. Andreas Goppold
Postf. 2060, 89010 Ulm, Germany
Tel. ++49 +731 921-6931
Fax: (Goppold:) +731 501-999 (URL)

Computer technology is now in the third generation: presently micro computers, after mainframes, and minis, with the fourth already in the waiting (Landauer 1995, Norman 1993, 1998, Memex). Development of computer systems has so far been driven by technology- and marketing concerns, and not by human-potential issues, as critics point out (Landauer, Norman, Businessweek, Common, Engelbart, Karn). We can even go one step further and postulate that computer technology is constrained by an unexamined, outdated Kuhnian paradigm (Kuhn 1962): So far, it has mostly been used to mechanize the symbolics that humans had been using in the last 5000 years (Bolter 1991, Krämer 1988, Landow 1992, 1994).

Spatial perspective arose from the survival related developments of human evolution, our origin in the biosphere (Anthro, Calvin, Skoyles). As Calvin points out, the superior human facilities of spatial orientation and action were essential for the evolution of intelligence. The ability to throw objects with precision at moving targets (meaning the immense amount of neuronal computation necessary for orientation, self-stabilization, target-tracking, and trajectory projection), has been decisive in shaping the neuronal infrastructure that made us human. Using the human body as a ballistic propulsion subsystem is a neuronal computation achievement of much higher requirement than the linear force-translation of, say, a bow-and-arrow system, or simpler still, a gun. It means force-coupling a ballistical mechanical device to a human body - the arsenal of paleolithic weapons: boomerangs, propulsors, atl-atls, bolas, and slingshots (Bellier 1990). These were the greatest feats of neuronal interface technology of the last one million years. In present-day applications, we are not surprised to find the most advanced neuronal interface cybernetics in high-grade weapons systems: aimed to perform essentially the same purposes as a million years ago, but with "a bigger bang for the buck". Still time is essential: he who shoots first, and most accurately, is going to win. In military parlance, this is called the OODA-Loop: Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action (Stein 1998).

In the more refined higher-order human symbolic activities, this basic neuronal computation infrastructure found its appropriate re-use. The Renaissance usage of perspective in art has re-introduced and re-formulated these neuronal cybernetics as a general symbolic ordering principle. Kim Veltman has coined the metaphor of Conceptual Navigation for overlooking and zooming into the vast knowledge spaces of our cultural heritage with multimedia systems (Veltman). A wider meaning of perspective involves the utilization of our rich neuronal potential of spatial metaphors (Benking) embedded in our bodies for traversing "The Global Semiosphere" (Hoffmeyer 1997). While phylogenetic evolution has fitted us with an optimal equipment for dealing with spatiality, the issue of temporality is dominated by cultural evolution. The human temporal horizon of personal memory and experience is limited by our lifetime: about 75 years. All cultural evolution of the last 500,000 or so years was a product of the accumulation and re-organization of the cultural materials of the Semiosphere. Thus, the ability to overlook and traverse the depths of the cultural memory of humanity constitutes the Spatio-Temporal Perspective.

The crucial factor of Spatio-Temporal Perspective will be called Neuronal Resonance. The depth-time structure of culture, our symbolic "deep space", was treated for a long time from the viewpoint of western writing culture, and only now are we coming to appreciate its neuronal infrastructure details (Brock, Skoyles). Symbols are the most recent, but certainly not the last evolutionary step in the long transmission of behavioral complexes among organisms, which started right with the first bacteria 4-5 billion years ago, and evolved in parallel with genetic evolution (Biosem, Bloom). In higher animals, all perception and behavior is mapped onto neuronal excitation fields in their brains, and all communicative and manipulative acts lead therefore to neuronal resonance fields. An ergonomically optimized tool or instrument will translate into an optimized neuronal resonance for its user. Music is the art system for producing and appreciating neuronal resonances. Invisibly hidden beneath the familiar complaints about computers (Landauer), and generally motor-driven machinery is their basic incompatibility with human neuronal resonance rhythms. Tognazzini (1993) shows us examples in HCI, where he details the working methods of stage magicians as "manipulations of time" (p. 359). Of course, it is not the flow of newtonian time that is manipulated, but the working of the human nervous system, whose rhythmics generates our perception of (subjective) time. For "new frontiers of cognitive enhancement", the factor of neuronal resonance will be essential, but this area has so far seen very little research (Halang 1992, Innis, McLuhan). There is some work around "Flow" (Csikszentmihalyi 1990, Karn 1997: 64). This denotes hard-to-define intellect-augmentation effects (Engelbart) that can occur, when expert work is able to proceed in uninterrupted sequences of cumulative efficiency. Time factor is critical, since it is interrelated with the human attention span and capacity of the short term memory. Neuronal resonance effects are enhanced when (parts of) the human body enter a dance-like rhythmics. Therefore, a short time lag of about 1/10 sec seems essential. Noticeable augmentation effects are attained mainly when a high level of user training and expertise is started with at the beginning, which severly limits the systematic application and testing (Karn 1997).

For practical HCI applications of neuronal resonance, we can cite systems designed for the former generation of mini computers: APL and MUMPS. These were renowned as the most powerful programming systems ever created by man. In terms of the OODA loop metaphor, they yielded maximum power for observation, orientation, decision, and action on the base of careful fine-tuning of the software to the rather minimal technology that was available then: Winchester hard disk, 80*25 CRT alphanumeric display, and 32-64 K RAM Processor. Since APL and MUMPS were virtual machine codes disguised as programming languages (and hand-crafted in native assembler), they offered extremely powerful command facilities with a few quick key-strokes (which the programmer, of course, had to memorize). The HCI "secret" of these systems was the neuronal resonance circuit thus created, of tight-fitting incremental loops of code-viewing, understanding, modifying, testing, and evaluating, the DP equivalence of the OODA loop. The later generation of mouse-driven HCI (WIMP) has sacrificed speed of interaction in favor of mass market access, leaving the power users out in the cold. This is financially understandeable, but it poses an insidious cul-de-sac for human symbolic evolution that could be possible with multi media symbol systems. Some avenues for further development are probed in (Goppold).


Amiet , P. (1966). Les elamites inventaient l'ecriture. Archeologia 12, 16-23.

Anthro. (URL) (URL) (URL)

Bellier, C., Chattelain. (1990). La chasse dans la prehistoire. Treignes: Ed. du Cedarc.

Benking. (URL) (URL)

Biosem: (URL)

Bloom, H.: History of the Global Brain (URL)

Bolter , J. (1991). Writing Space. Hillsdale: Erlbaum.

Brock, B. Neuronale Ästhetik (URL)

Businessweek. (URL)

Calvin , W. H. The throwing madonna, The cerebral code. (URL)

Cohen , M.(1958). La grande invention de l'écriture et son évolution. Paris: Imprimerie nationale.

Chandler, D. Media Theory Web Site. (URL) (URL)

Common (1993). Common Elements in Today's Graphical User Interfaces: INTERCHI '93, ACM, p. 470-473.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow. New York: Harper Perennial.

Engelbart, D. (URL)

Ferrill , A. (1985). The origins of war: from the Stone Age to Alexander the Great. London: Thames and Hudson

Goppold, A. (URL)
HCI99: (URL)

Günther, Gotthard (1976). Beiträge zur Grundlegung einer operationsfähigen Dialektik - Bd. 1. Hamburg : Felix Meiner

Halang, W. (1992). Zum unterentwickelten Zeitbegriff der Informatik. Physik und Informatik. Berlin: Springer, 30-40.

Hoffmeyer, J. (1997). The Global Semiosphere. In: Rauch, I., Carr (eds.): Semiotics Around the World. Berlin: Mouton, pp. 933-936.

Karn, K. S.; Perry, T. J.; Krolczyk, M. J. (1997). Testing for Power Usability. SIGCHI Bulletin, 29 (4), Oct , p. 63-67.

Krämer , S. (1988). Symbolische Maschinen. Wiss. Buchges. Darmstadt.

Kuhn, T. (1962). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: U of Chicago Pr.

Landauer, T. (1995). The trouble with computers. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Landow , G. (1992). Hypertext. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins.
Landow, G. (ed) (1994). Hyper / Text / Theory. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins.

Memex. (URL)

Nadin, Mihai. (1997). Civilization of Illiteracy, Dresden: Dresden Univ. Press

Norman, D. A. (1993). Things that make us smart. Reading: Addison-Wesley.
Norman, D. A. (1998). The invisible computer. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Pöppel, Ernst (1993). Das Drei-Sekunden Bewußtsein. Psychologie Heute. 10/93, S. 58-63
Salthe, S.: Evolving hierarchical systems, Columbia Univ. Press, New York (1985)

Semiotica (1994) . Special issue on paleosemiotics. Vol. 100-2/4

Skoyles. (URL) (URL)

Spengler, O. (1980). Der Untergang des Abendlandes. München: DTV

Stein, G. (1998). Talk at Ars Electronica Infowar Symposion. (URL)

Sun Tsu: Über die Kunst des Krieges, übers. Klaus Leibniz

Tognazzini, B. (1993). Principles, Techniques, and Ethics of Stage Magic. INTERCHI '93, pp. 355-362. New York: ACM

Veltman, Kim. (URL) (URL)

Yates, F. (1990). Gedächtnis und Erinnern. Weinheim: VCH.
engl: 1966. The Art of Memory, London: Routledge&Kegan

Previous Next Title Page Index Contents Site Index