Despite bold predictions from several Technocomplex about the future of neural interfaces, science extensions of the brain is still in its infancy. What do scientists think about all this hype that comes from Silicon valley? Mikhail Lebedev, a neuroscientist working on brain-computer interfaces at Duke University, recently received a prize of $ 100,000 from Frontiers records for a collection of works on the expansion of the brain, written over the past four years.
This prize should help him and his fellow Iona Apriso (neuroscientist, University of Miami), and Manuel Casanova (doctor of the University of South Carolina) to gather an international conference on this topic next year. Publishing Singularity spoke with Lebedev in order to learn about his opinion about the development of this field.
Justified the hype on the subject of neural implants and brain supplements that we see?
In the next 10 years we will see the emergence of realistic dentures of various kinds and a variety of technologies for the rehabilitation of stroke and spinal cord injury. Then, as described in these high-profile articles — like the fact that people will learn to print the power of thought and get several million electrodes implanted in the brain — all this will be, but 20 years from now.
I could be wrong, because new technology is developing fast. If 10 years ago it was normal to polumillimetrovogo insert the electrode into the brain, now they have nano. Of course, decoding of brain activity would long remain a problem.
do we know Enough about cognitive processes to work with them?
We Have a basic understanding. We know that some brain areas are more "cognitive" (associated with the functions of teaching and learning) than others. So if you want to extract more information from the brain, you will have to place the electrodes in or on these areas. But the idea of thoughts we have is very mediocre, so I don't think in the next 10 years we will learn how to decode free-floating thoughts.
What does this mean for people's hopes to use the extension ability of the brain to communicate with AI? Is this realistic in the short or medium term?
I Think it's more than real, but the first success will come from augmented reality when you use your normal sense, which is good for interaction with the AI. Let's call him asomoza. Thus, direct interaction is a really good idea, but it is still limited to the number of channels for this pairing. The main problem is that we really don't understand the code of the brain, so don't know how to make this interface effective.
But my memory is limited, so augmented reality glasses would be extremely helpful, if the AI accompanies me when driving through the environment. To imagine that the computer and the brain work together, it is easy. So the brain gives examples, and the computer learns, and the brain takes advantage of the computing power of the external device.
What kind of brain Supplement you can implement?
Take any brain function, and you can try to add to it. Among touch, you can add new senses to the brain. For example, can add a sense electromagnetic fields, which we don't usually feel, and it will be a new feeling. It is possible to place these new sensors on the perimeter of the head, and you will get a panoramic vision. Of course, I would have first experimented on animals.
You Can also try to stimulate certain areas of the brain, but at the moment the vast majority of work shows that you can suppress certain stages of processing, not improve. However, such inhibition can be useful if we could find a use for it. Imagine, for example, that people solve certain problems, and the computer knows the correct answer — so he sends the overwhelming momentum in certain regions of the brain and entices him to a definite decision.
What are the main applications of brain supplements?
There are two main branches. The first is a non-invasive device that is very easy to implement, and they kind of work. The only problem is that the quality of the signals that they provide are limited. If you look at the system the electroencephalogram (EEG), they are represented by activity a huge number of neurons, and a powerful EEG recorded during sleep. Thus, all actions associated with, say, precise motor functions become very small and you can't detect them on an EEG. In addition, EEG suffer from all sorts of artifacts.
Of Course, the device EEG is not the only use non-invasive methods. Functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIR) is also a very good non-invasive method. It allows you to allocate certain types of activity, just runs very slow.
Potential invasive approaches have not yet been fully implemented. We now have the ability to read, say, 100 neurons. In the future, when we will read millions of neurons, we can think about any methods of decoding. The main obstacle today is that invasive surgery requires the implantation of a device into the brain.
How about pharmacological approaches to enhance the ability of the brain?
Pharmacology is not really my thing, but the drafters of the medicines doing amazing things. They can design molecules for specific tasks, which may work for one receptor of the brain, but not for others, or one region of the brain, but not others. In principle, all these methods can be improved and will become to solve specific problems.
You Can even modify brain cells of genetically, as in optogenetics, which makes cells sensitive to light. It was not fully implemented, because the possibilities are many. Cells can be sensitive to magnetic fields, stretching even to mechanical movements, which is unusual for neurons. Or it would be possible to implant cells of another organism to the brain. Any ideas of science fiction now seem quite feasible.
What are the potential disadvantages and cons of brain supplements?
I'm optimistic, so I see mostly advantages. We want to improve, we want to become less primitive people. The main disadvantage of all this will probably be the same as when using drugs. Let's imagine a person who implants himself in the pleasure center in the brain device and just constantly kicks. It is unlikely you would enjoy it, but many will be attracted.
The intervention of the system of motivation and enjoyment of the brain that can be a problem. Once submitted to military who take permanent control of their soldiers. In addition, any brain-computer interface can act as a lie detector. You will notice things that you usually do not want to see, want to leave them in other people's property.
is There a danger that access to these technologies is uneven?
I not worried because, of course, rich will have first access to the extension functions of the brain. Yes, they are expensive, clumsy and will work poorly. But as technology advances they will become cheaper and everyone will get access. So this problem in a capitalist society should not be....
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