The transhumanist vision of a transformed and technologically enhanced humanity is no longer a science fiction pipe dream. The technological and scientific breakthroughs our society has experienced over the past couple of decades perhaps stand testament to that.
Applied science has certainly come a long way too, but we are yet to crack the brain's enigma code. How would humanity benefit if we were to crack it? Neuroprosthetics seem to be a window into the future.
Can brain activity be translated into movement?
According to innovators and researchers like Elon Musk, it can. Brain-computer interfaces seem like a step in this direction. In March this year, Elon Musk launched Neuralink, a company reportedly developing brain-computer interfaces. According to him, "a meaningful partial brain interface is just four or five years away." Neuralink aims to treat serious brain diseases and eventually ascend to "human enhancement."
Musk, however, is not alone in this ambitious endeavor. Scientists like Eva Dyer are trying to translate brain activity into movement, and they are borrowing tools from a whole other world - the world of cryptography. Individuals like Dyer are, essentially, borrowing from cryptography and decoding the human brain, just like codebreakers decipher code.
Codebreakers exploit language patterns in encrypted messages, and just like language, human movements follow predictable patterns too. Cryptography-inspired strategies for neural decoding are a novel idea, but they are what brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) typically use.
According to studies presented at Neuroscience 2017, brain-controlled devices in the form of prosthetics are rapidly developing and can already provide life-changing support for those who have lost the ability to use a part of their body or a limb due to illness or injury. Not only could prosthetics connected directly to the brain improve mobility and functionality, but they could also enable us to do what we can't do with our limbs naturally.
Stephen Hawking famously stated that AI is one of the biggest threats to humanity, and those who agree with him tend to think that we are in a race to beat Artificial Intelligence.
American entrepreneur, venture capitalist and founder of Kernel, a company which specializes in developing neuroprosthetic devices, Bryan Johnson, claims co-evolving with machines is our only hope. In a guest post published on Tech Crunch, he wrote: "We have very little access to our own brains, limiting our ability to co-evolve with silicon-based machines in powerful ways."