The video below shows a promising (but not as “OMG brain-controlled stuff WOOT!” as the referring site would have you believe) early step in bridging the gap between the mind and technology.
While the researchers draw the conclusion that this is revolutionary direct brain-brain communication, I’m not quite on board. First, all this display really shows is a kludge system that allowed someone to transmit rudimentary thought to another human through a mediator (not directly) – in this case, the Internet. Here’s the gist of the research:
Researchers attach EEG sensors to subject 1, designed to understand 1’s imagining of raising either their left or right arm as binary code – a 1 or a 0.
Meanwhile, subject 2, who sits in a different location covered by Mr. Shakey Cam, being flashed by an LED that subtly differentiates between the 1 and the 0 is hooked up to EEG amplifiers.
Somehow, the data encoded in the flashed 1s and 0s is interpretable by subject 2’s brain. Subject 2 correctly interprets a series as transmitted by subject 1. 1-0-1-1 is transmitted, received, and decoded.
What I see in this is actually a bit more promising than brain-brain communication (which this isn’t) but goes overlooked. This is brain-computer communication! Granted this is a data transfer rate that makes a 1200 baud modem seem like light speed, but it’s a start. If one takes for a good thing our impending transformation into a race of silicon-augments, this is a HUUUGE step. Plenty of research shows our brain’s sensitivity to broad effect reading and writing from external parties. But to show that we are capable of encoding a specific thought process that a computer can correctly articulate instruction and meaning from? That’s the encouraging thing to me.
I know I probably seem like I await the Singularity with at least unstable glee, and probably to some observers with unhealthy obsession. The reality (or at least my impression of reality) is that the Singularity isn’t a scary thing for me. I don’t think we’re looking at our impending doom, but instead at the next great step in civilization. Once thought merges so seamlessly with technology, it’ll be the next best thing to being everywhere at once. I’d have to think that such potential would be a transformative power in humanity.
But at a generous 3 seconds per 1 or 0, as seen in the video, it’s going to be a long time until I can transmit 01001101 01110010 00101110 00100000 01010111 01100001 01110100 01110011 01101111 01101110 00101100 00100000 01100011 01101111 01101101 01100101 00100000 01101000 01100101 01110010 01100101 00101110 (that would take just under 10 minutes) without breaking a sweat. (click here if you’d like to decode it.)
Just think how long it would take to convince a murderous robot to spare your life.