Imagine being able to control a computer character, write a letter, browse the Internet, or control your home, with just your mind. As you think about it, your brain fires millions upon millions of electrons down millions upon millions of pathways in your brain, allowing you to conduct thought. This process is measurable, because different thoughts prompt different pathways in your brain. To oversimplify, your brain could be represented as a series of lights (neurons), which can flash in many different patterns or combinations. These patterns are, to some extent, measurable; even by today’s technology.
Before you dismiss the piper’s dream of computer interaction through thought, read this, this and this (and this). It is being considered and actively researched, because Brain-Computer Interfacing will be a redefining phenomenon in the future in as many ways and more than the computer itself.
Consider your mouse and keyboard – you can type with your keyboard as fast as your hands are mechanically capable, and that’s not fast. The typewriter has been around for 140 years and it’s electromechanical counterpart, the keyboard, is one of the many crippling bottlenecks in today’s computers. Being able to interface with a computer with just your mind removes this choking layer in the interaction stack, and broadens the bandwidth between you and your computer a million-fold. Imagine being able to construct images with your mind, to record your dreams, to browse other peoples mind’s.
We could go a step further and remove the screen and speakers while we’re at it. We could also introduce new senses such as touch, taste, and smell. With a direct link to the brain, we could immerse ourselves in a virtual reality which would utilise all of our senses, allowing us to interact with friends and others in computer simulated worlds. Computer games would no longer change some dismal array of lights on a screen for our interpretation – they could trick our brain into thinking we can see something the computer has generated and fired into our brain down the millions upon millions of neurons and pathways used to interpret imagery. Blind people will be able to see, deaf people able to hear, and mute people able to talk. With BCI, only your brain is the limit. But, let us not get too high on the prospect of The Matrix, their are problems with this sort of technology.
I imagine most of you freaked when I proclaimed you’ll be able to ‘browse’ other peoples mind’s. Unfortunately, all great creations are exploitable and exploited. I can ‘see’ it now, watching a movie (without my eyes, don’t need them anymore) and seeing a massive ‘pop up’ appear in my mind asking if I wanted to purchase cologne for Father’s Day. Stupid spam. Privacy will be a huge concern when this technology is widely implemented and available, and many will question the ethics of the ever blurring line between reality and fabrication.
I hope I am around to see it happen. But if not? Well, I think the idea of an advanced BCI is more admirable than the reality of it. No wait..