Is there a brain chip in your future? People who say that someday brain implants will allow computers to read minds might be startled to realize that the day is already here.
Neuroscientists at the BrainGate consortium made history in 2012, when they inserted a chip in the mind of a person with an amputated arm, allowing him to control a robotic arm with his brain. In 2017, the team developed a thought-to-text system that allowed monkeys to “think” at a computer and have the computer transcribe their thoughts at the rate of 12 words per minute. Later the same year, a similar chip was installed in several people suffering from severe paralysis, allowing them to type on a computer screen at a rate of about eight words a minute.
That was the precursor to installing two sensors, each about the size of a baby aspirin, each with 100 hair-fine electrodes, into the brain of a man who had suffered a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed below the shoulders. The sensors picked up his neural signals, which were processed by a computer to decode his brain activity, allowing him to write words on the computer screen at the record-breaking speed of 16 words a minute—about three-quarters of the speed that people achieve when typing on their smartphones. He used the ‘greater than’ symbol on his mental typewriter to denote spaces between words.
Neuroscience still has a ways to go before we are reading each other’s minds. The new mental interface requires a specialized high-performance computer, and a technician to set up the brain-computer interface and run the software. And, of course, it requires brain surgery to insert the sensory devices. But scientists believe that we are on the edge of creating a version of the technology that would be always available to the user who wanted to type, control the computer, perhaps even neurally communicate with others who have a similar chip. Pets with a similar insertion (remember the monkey) might be able to have more personal communication connections with their adopted families.
This article was written by an independent writer for Brewster Financial Planning LLC and is not intended as individualized legal or investment advice.