Science fiction has ruled the world with its crazy technology stories, filled with ideas such as mindreading and humans turned cyborgs. However, these ideas may not be just confined to the pages of a novel. One of the most commonly known companies working on Brain Computer Interfaces (brain-enhancing devices) is Elon Musk’s company Neuralink. This article will provide a breakdown of how these devices work, and the ethical dilemmas shrouding them.
What are Brain Computer Interfaces (BCIs)?
BCIs are devices connected to the brain, either implanted or wired on the outside of the head. The purpose of them is to interact with computers using our own brain activity. They can be used to move prosthetic limbs, return hearing and sight to those born without it, and much more.
BCIs detect certain electrical impulses (signals), and then carry out the command that they’re supposed to when they detect that specific signal. For example, every movement has a unique neural signature. When moving a hand, the brain sends a unique signal down a specific pathway. When someone loses a limb, or has paralysis, there is no longer movement of the signal for the specific limb(s), and the packet of electrical impulses is blocked from reaching its destination. BCIs can create new pathways for those impulses. For instance, if a BCI being used for a prosthetic hand detects the signal used to move a hand, it will move the prosthetic hand.
Non-Invasive BCIs can include electroencephalograms (EEGs). These can be used to view and record brain activity as it is happening. They measure electrical brain activity using sensors placed on the scalp.
Invasive BCIs can be chips or electrodes, or any other materials placed on the brain’s surface or deep in the brain. These devices have been used to reduce seizures, by a company called NeuroPace, and are the type of BCI that Neuralink is hoping to use to help people with paralysis or those who have lost limbs.
How does Neuralink Work?
Neuralink is a thin, mesh device that will be inserted into skulls using a needle to fuse brains with computer capabilities. The mesh device, called Neuralace, unravels upon injection, and will integrate itself with the brain. For now, the mission of the company is to help people with paralysis or those who have lost limbs. However, after the device is developed, Elon Musk has said it can be a method of keeping humans ahead of artificial intelligence (AI). A device like this can be used to enable people to upload and download information into their minds, communicate with others without speaking, and advance our capabilities beyond our imagination. Sounds like science fiction has entered reality, doesn’t it?
Obviously, with a device like Neuralace, there has to be some ethical issues. To start off, one of these issues is the economic divisions this device could fuel. This device could be expensive when it first comes out, so the wealthy could have another unfair advantage for life as they would be the first to have access to this powerful device.
Also, there are issues concerning privacy and free will. What could happen if this device gets hacked? Could this lead to mind control, leading to the loss of free will? We don’t know the answers to serious questions like the ones listed above, which raises some concerns regarding the device.
There is so much information about this field that is unknown, which can lead to some scary thoughts on where a device like Neuralace can take humanity.
- BCIs are devices connected to the brain, either implanted or wired on the outside of the head.
- BCIs detect certain electrical impulses (signals), and then carry out the command that they’re supposed to when they detect that specific signal.
- There are two types of BCIs, invasive and non-invasive.
- Neuralink is a company working to help people with paralysis or amputees with their BCI device, Neuralace.
- BCIs have many ethical issues surrounding them when it comes to their widespread use across the world.
Leave a comment down below regarding your view on BCIs! Do you believe humanity can move past the ethical issues shrouding their use, or should devices like these remain confined to the pages of science fiction novels?