Just few weeks ago I reported on a successful experiment carried out by Duke and Natal Universities that proved possible to send brain signals from the brain of a rat in the US to one in Brasil.
And now I stumbled onto a news that a joint research team in South Korea and US have managed to send signals from a human brain to a rat brain. And as they are announcing the results they claim the road is open for sending signal from a human brain to another human brain.
The experiment was performed by placing sensors to detect EEG on the head of a volunteer. The person looked at stroboscopic lights on a screen. This generated a pattern that could be detected by a computer reading the EEG. This pattern can be modulated by the person thinking on moving the rats tail left or right, hence the computer could detect the “thought” of that person and send the signal over a telecommunications link.
The signal transmitted to the rat via a communication link was converted by another computer at the receiving end to drive a transducer that focussed ultrasound on the rat’s brain. The ultrasound creates pressure waves on the rat’s brain that results in a stimulation of specific areas of the rat brain inducing specific activities. The rat was anaesthetised, to keep it still and be able to precisely focus the ultrasound, although in principle there won’t be any need for anaesthesia. Indeed the experiment shown that a person thought can be send to a rat brain and stimulated it to move its tale left or right.
You might say, rightly so, that it is like having found a way to drip a drop of water into a valley whilst what would be needed is to flood that valley with a mighty river to create a lake.
And then, wasn’t the Volta experiment showing the possibility to create a tiny spark of electricity quite similar? What can you ever do with such a tiny spark? Well that was the start of a revolution that has brought us where we are now. All of our life everyday experience wouldn’t have been possible without demonstrating the capability of generating a little spark.
Well, you might say that it took us over 200 year from that fateful November 7th, 1801, when Volta presented the experiment to Napoleon at the Institut de France in Paris. Will we have to wait 200 years to move from this “move tail left or right” to the seamless communication of thoughts among human brains (or interspecies brains!)?
I don’t think so. The progress of technology is such that we experience a compression of time, the amount of evolution we had in the last 50 years will be matched by the one we can expect in the next 18 months. May be Kurzweil is right predicting a singularity by 2030.