Monday, February 13, 2012

Cyborg Brain/Machine Interface is Now Reality

Brandon Turbeville
Activist Post
February 11, 2012
Only a few days ago, I wrote an article entitled “Merging Man and Machine: Singularity vs. Humanity,” where I discussed the growing Singularity movement and its implications for humanity as we know it. 
At the center of this article was the announcement by researchers at the University of California that scientists are now able to translate human speech into computer-generated signals which are then fed back to human brains as human speech.
While this may seem like groundbreaking news to some, the University of California is by no means the only institution working on such technology. Nor is it the only institution experiencing success in these endeavors.
In an article published in the Daily Mail entitled, “The cyborgs are coming! Living brains implanted with electronic chips to replace ‘faulty’ parts,” Rob Waugh discusses successful developments made by researchers at Tel Aviv University in regards to their ability to create and install computer circuits into brains that can replace and control motor functions.
Under the guise of developing technology that could possibly aid individuals suffering from Parkinson’s disease, Tel Aviv researchers have essentially created circuitry that can replace basic motor functions such as blinking, and have implanted these circuits into rat brains.
The circuits are tied together in such a way that they act as what Waugh describes as a “robotic cerebellum;” the area of the brain responsible for the coordination of movement. After being wired to the brain, the robotic cerebellum “receives, interprets, and transmits sensory information from the brain stem, facilitating communication between the brain and body.”
As is the case in much of the tech-related developments I have had the opportunity to research, the robotic cerebellum is not something that will be coming in the future. It is already here.
Indeed, Professor Matti Mintz and other Tel Aviv researchers have already successfully implanted a robotic cerebellum into a brain-damaged rat, “restoring its capacity for movement” and teaching it to blink whenever a particular tone was sounded.
The rat was only able to perform the action when the robotic cerebellum was functioning; demonstrating that the robotic cerebellum was in fact successful in translating sensory information to the brain in a fashion that directly mimics the natural neural impulses.
Mintz, who recently presented his research findings at the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence meeting in Cambridge, UK, stated, “It’s proof of the concept that we can record information from the brain, analyze it in a way similar to the biological network, and then return it to the brain.”
This research dovetails with that which Ian Morris discussed in his own article for the Daily Mail entitled, “Hitler would have loved The Singularity: Mind-blowing benefits of merging human brains and computers.” In this article, Morris discusses experiments recently conducted at the University of California where researchers scanned the electrical activity of the human brain while volunteers were listening to human speech, fed the information into a computer, and translated the activity back into human language.
Morris writes:
Last September, they asked volunteers to watch Hollywood film trailers and then reconstructed the clips by scanning their subjects’ brain activity.
(. . .)
Last week, the scientists boldly went further still. They charted the electrical activity in the brains of volunteers who were listening to human speech and then they fed the results into computers which translated the signals back into language.
The technique remains crude, and has so far made out only five distinct words, but humanity has crossed a threshold.
In another related experiment that was also conducted at the University of California, as well as at Wake Forest University, a brain implant was again tested on rats with findings that revealed the implants could actually restore lost memories.
The implantable device is able to mimic the neural signals of the brain, as well as transmit replicas of these signals to the hippocampus, the area of the brain associated with turning short-term memories into long-term memories. 

With these capabilities, the devices are thus able to trace the neural signals as they occur, then restore the memory after the original memory has been lost. If the device is used with a hippocampus that is functioning normally, it can even be used to enhance memory, not only restore it.
In this particular study, researchers trained rats to press one lever after another to receive water. The tests were conducted by allowing the rats to press one lever and then distracting them so they would have to remember which lever they had already pressed in order to press the correct lever and receive their “reward.”
The researchers then attached electrodes to the rats’ brains and connected them to the CA1 and CA3 areas of the hippocampus. They recorded the signals between these regions of the brain as the rats performed their trained tasks. The researchers then drugged the rats to the point that the two regions (CA1 and CA3) could not communicate. Thus, the rats forgot which lever to press next.
As Theodore Berger, a biomedical engineering professor at USC and lead author of this study, stated, “The rats still showed that they knew ‘when you press left first, then press right next time, and vice-versa.’ And they still knew in general to press levers for water, but they could only remember whether they had pressed left or right for 5-10 seconds.”
After the research team implanted the artificial (robotic) hippocampus, they turned on the device which replayed a previously recorded signal from CA1. The rats then remembered which levers to pull and in the correct order.
As Berger stated in more simplistic terms, “Flip the switch on, and the rats remember. Flip it off, and the rats forget.”
The researchers have stated that they are moving forward in testing the device in monkeys next. However, the authors of the study have also stated that “the system could easily be fitted for human use.”
Obviously, this technology is far ahead of the much-hyped “amnesia pill” that has been discussed for some time. Yet, even a pill that is capable of erasing certain memories was derided as a conspiracy theory for as long as it has been discussed. However, now there can be no derision of the technology and experiments addressed above. Not only are they here -- they have been successful.
In addition, we know that any technology introduced to the general public is already quite obsolete. The military-industrial complex and the high sciences are light years ahead of anything the mass population is even faintly aware of.
The fact that such advancements in the area of mind/brain control are now being introduced to the general public should be concerning to the say the least. While these types of developments undoubtedly hold some benefit to individuals suffering from neurodegenerative diseases or paralysis, the fact is that the agenda behind their development and introduction are not geared to these ends.
Machine-brain interfacing is almost solely geared toward the aims of warfare and control, with positive developments such as ending paralysis and motor impairments only being used as a marketing method for their introduction and acceptance. The Singularity movement itself holds no improvements in the quality of life of mankind, only the possibility (and indeed probability) of a vastly increased level of centralized control over every human being.
Keep in mind, the funding for research in this particular area of science tends to come from military and secretive agencies like DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). These agencies are not in existence due to their contributions to humanitarian efforts. They exist due to their contributions toward “improving” the ability of the State to wage war more effectively.

In an age where the citizens of the supposedly free world are considered the enemy by their own governments, developments such as Singularity and brain/machine interfaces should be viewed with a heavy dose of skepticism and resistance. That is, while our ability to do so still exists. 

Read other articles by Brandon Turbeville here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.