How many time we have thought “it would be nice if I just think of calling my friend and ,voilà, my cell phone dials his number!”. May be not that but something equivalent: turning our thoughts into immediate action with no cumbersome interface.
Well, progress in BCI, Brain Computer Interface, is now turning the question into “when will it be possible…”. Our wish, indeed, may be granted soon.
On the left a photo of a soft helmet being experimented by Samsung to pick up electrical signals generated by thoughts in our brain and decode them via a computer to generate commands to a cell phone.
Now, it is clear that I do not want to wear such a thing! But researchers are progressing in making such an helmet invisible, by replacing it with a chip that can be implanted under the scalp. That would solve the aesthetics issue but the whole thing is going to open up a can of worm!
Suppose we will come to a point that you can be implanted at very low cost and with no pain nor physical side effects a chip that can pick up your thoughts and send them to a computer (let’s assume the one in your cell phone) and therefore you, or may be not you but many people, will choose to have such an implant.
The possibility to connect at light speed thinking and acting may give a competitive advantage in many field and so one might suppose that over time a growing number of people will make BCI a mainstream reality.
What are the legal implication? This is what an article on Technology Review is wondering about.
Who is going to be accountable if something breaks down and you do not what you though but something different? Or, even more likely, you changed your mind a millisecond after having sent the command…? The delay between thinking and acting is saving our day many times over!
And, of course, this is just the beginning! What if we get hacked? Our thoughts gets stolen, made public?
The fact is we have been evolved through the eons within a very precise framework: the impossibility to know for sure what another person is thinking. And even if we might guess what is going on in another brain we do not know for sure what will be going on in the next second… This impossibility, or uncertainty, has shaped our behaviour and our social relations.
If this framework crumbles we find ourselves completely unprepared in a social sense. And this is the one that is most crucial to our life. Indeed it is ever more true that new solutions beget new problems!