Is it possible for scientists and neurosurgeons to exercise control over the most complex network there is – the human brain? What if in the future you could drive a car using nothing but the power of your mind? Driverless cars wouldn’t seem so attractive then, would they? After all, till some years ago the thought of driverless cars also seemed like a distant possibility, something too good to be true. And yet, we have them ready today and out on the roads. The question that arises, however, is, how further on should we let our scientists go on in pursuit of such advancements before it messes with the underlying morals and ethics and it is too late to get back?
The mind-controlled technology that the scientists work on today is not new. Its inception began in as early as the 1920’s when researchers and scientists discovered the electrical activity of the human brain and invented electroencephalography (EEG), a monitoring method to record the electrical activity of the brain. It was discovered that neurons conveyed information via electrical ‘spikes’ which could be recorded using a thin metal wire or electrode. After this discovery, in the year 1969, Eberhard Fetz unintentionally created the first ever brain-machine interface when he connected a single neuron in a monkey’s brain to a dial the animal could see.
Do We Use Mind Monitoring Today?
As a matter of fact, we do. Keyboard, mouse, touch screens or even voice recognition will be a thing of the past in the years to come as you would be able to just ‘think’ and make your gadget do whatever you wish to. There are many toys and gadgets coming out every year that look straight out from a sci-fi movie and let you interact with them. For example, EEGSmart Touch is a wearable device that lets you control drones and other toys using the power of your mind. It makes use of 8 regions of your brain, records the brainwaves and translates them into commands. Or Mindflex, that uses a headset to read your brainwaves and let you move a levitating foam ball with your mind.
By using this brain-computer interface, mind-controlled technology successfully establishes a pathway of communication between the human brain and the gadget. This technology is being incorporated not just into gaming systems but for far greater purposes that will help mankind. Researchers are working on simulation techniques that would aid people who have Parkinson’s disease and other issues like obsessive-compulsive disorder. By implanting electrodes into the human brain, researchers are trying to enable patients to control their bionic limbs. But even with the best emerging technology, there is an inherent risk we put ourselves to when we connect our mind with the machines.
Research Done So Far
Using mind control technology attempts are being made to provide options for people who have been paralyzed or have lost limbs. In one such attempt, a man was fitted with 128 electrode sensors on his motor cortex by the surgeons at Josh Hopkins University School of Medicine. This enabled him to move the individual fingers of his bionic arm. We all remember the news of the paralyzed teenager who kicked the first ball of a Fifa World Cup opening ceremony wearing an exoskeleton that was controlled by his mind. The simple idea behind this kind of control is that by injecting energy into one part of the brain network the other parts of the network get influenced too. These techniques are also known as deep brain stimulation techniques.
A similar technique was also used for people suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Using manipulation techniques of deep brain stimulation, the lives of such patients can be considerably improved. Deep brain simulation normalizes the unusual electrical activity in the brain’s fronto-striatal circuitry and helps the patient to calm down.
Internationally, researchers are making progress by leaps and bounds as evidenced in an experiment where they could send information from one human brain to the other to create a brain to brain interface. Researchers even made a person move when another person wanted them to by connecting their brains.
Moral and Ethical Dilemma
While the intentions of the scientists, researchers, and neurosurgeons are to use this mind control technology for the advancement of the humans, who is to say of the future if its uses remain as ethical and don’t get used by wrong people? Connecting our brains to technology may be a natural progression, but we cannot rule out the moral complications and risks it poses. The use of this technology in the military could have serious repercussions. There is a need to address these concerns before it is too late to put the genie back in the bottle and form an ethical framework by people other than the developers.