A technocratic dream of advanced devices that let humans read thoughts and communicate with each other through brainwaves is moving closer towards reality.
Leading technology companies from across the world, including Facebook and Elon Musk’s Neuralink, are funding new research that “aims to merge the human brain with a computer”.
FACEBOOK’S SECRET LAB
A top secret division inside the walls of Facebook is set to change the way we communicate forever.
Originally announced by Mark Zuckerberg as “Building 8” in 2016, the company is dedicated to working on “unannounced advanced consumer hardware products”.
Insider reports suggested projects undertaken will span everything from cameras and augmented reality, to science fiction-like “brain scanning technology”:
Facebook’s radical brain-scanning technology is reported to be lead by a former John Hopkins neuroscientist who helped develop a mind-controlled prosthetic arm.
The company have poached former DARPA Director and Google pioneer Regina Dugan to spearhead the new division.
Several job postings listed by Facebook’s group describe a project involving “neuroimaging” and “electrophysiological data” to create a “communications platform of the future”.
Neuroimaging is an advanced field of science that uses various techniques to scan and understand what’s happening in the human brain, while translating and simulating the activity with computers.
Facebook have declined to comment and little is publicly known about Building 8, other than to develop consumer hardware products that advance Facebook’s mission of “connecting the world”.
A 2015 comment from Zuckerberg suggests the company could be working on some kind of brain-controlled, telepathic communication device:
“One day, I believe we’ll be able to send full rich thoughts to each other directly using technology.
You’ll just be able to think of something and your friends will immediately be able to experience it too if you’d like.”
In 2017, news outlets reported the end of Facebook’s ambitious company, however, new coverage has revealed that the company is continuing projects under a restructure.
Facebook is not alone in their next generation ambitions either.
Another company pioneering research about human-machine interface technology is Tesla.
The company, which is still in the earliest stages of existence, is centered on creating devices that can be implanted in the human brain, with the purpose of helping human beings merge with software and keep pace with advancements in artificial intelligence:
The technology being developed by Neuralink will allow us to integrate with computers to access and process information just as well as our AI counterparts.
Scientists are already able to tap into the brain’s electrical pulses that control muscles, meaning that in the case of paralysis, signal paths can be restored to give movement to once immobile limbs.
The company is looking to expand upon this research by introducing microcontrollers in the human brain to advance the concepts of this technology further.
Elon Musk briefly spoke about the project on the Joe Rogan experience, touching on how these enhancements could improve memory or allow for more direct interfacing with computing devices:
Musk has also explained his thoughts on future pathways of the technology to a crowd in Dubai:
“Over time, I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence.
It’s mostly about the bandwidth, the speed of the connection between your brain and the digital version of yourself, particularly output.”
Neuralink was registered in California as a “medical research” company, and he plans on funding the company mostly by himself.
Both Zuckerberg and Tesla are opening the door to a future world of technological advancements where the destination of these developments is almost impossible to predict.
These companies are largely expanding upon mainstream medical research into the field of neurotechnology, which is more centered towards application for diseases — rather than for advanced consumer and communications products.
Scientists hope that in the next five to 20 years, these technologies will deliver some of the most sought-after breakthroughs in neuroscience, such as a truly effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease or an alternative therapy for patients resistant to antidepressant drugs.
This has not stopped a surge in Silicon Valley interest from tech industry futurists who are interested in accelerating the advancement of these types of far-off ideas.
Technocrats from leading companies have been exploring ways to take these concepts and transform them to involve neurons and augmented reality — the futuristic tech that overlays virtual objects in the real world.
They are all connected, too.
A startup called Kernel is also trying to enhance human cognition by growing team of neuroscientists and software engineers to working toward reversing the effects of neurodegenerative diseases and, eventually, making our brains faster and more wired.
This company is run by Byan Johnson — who has also confirmed to have involvement with Neuralink.
Johnson spoke about the current power of this technology in an interview late last year.
“We know if we put a chip in the brain and release electrical signals, that we can ameliorate symptoms of Parkinson’s”.
Such products, although likely a long ways off, would represent a major leap forward in computing and would put Facebook and Tesla at the forefront of the intersection of technology and science.
A great piece to understand how this technology works in greater detail can be found here.
Facebook just poached a key Google executive who used to work for DARPA | Business Insider
Kernel is trying to hack the human brain | The Verge
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