On April 3 of this year a research article published by Seung-Schik Yoo of Harvard Medical School in Boston, along with his colleagues, Hyungmin Kim, Emmanuel Filandrianos, Seyed Javid Taghados, and Shinsuk Park created a successful non-invasive “brain to brain interface” (BBI) that allowed human subjects to move a rat’s tail with their thoughts via EEG and FUS! Which is amazing if you speak neuroscience.
In layman’s, this means that a human volunteer and a rodent were both outfitted with electroencephalograms (EEG), which measures general electrical activity in the brain. The human volunteer was then placed in front of a computer monitor. Because our knowledge of the specific workings of the brain (such as the precise firing of neurons needed to write an alphabet, or indeed, a single letter) is crude at best, only brain to computer interface (BCI) has been achieved (meaning thoughts can be “understood” by a computer but not the other way around), but using the technology we have in BCI and transcranial focused ultrasound (FUS) signalling while using steady-state-visual-evoked-potentials (SSVEP) in the form of strobe lights on a computer monitor to synchronize the brain of the rat and human, the computer was able to understand the intention of the human subject and convey it to the rat’s body. After a delay, the rat’s tail moved! And with 94% accuracy!
Brain to brain interface can mean a great many things. The fact is, we still do not know enough about the precise mechanics of the human brain to put this technology to any sinister or valuable use. The scientists specifically stated in the body of their research that the abstract use could be therapeutic applications in neuroscience. It would mean a great deal for those effected by Parkinson’s disease and other motor cortex disorders and the families of those afflicted. Or it could mean that we are one step closer to mind control by a malevolent national or corporate entity. It’s a matter of perspective.
The ethical ramifications of this technology are staggering. Is it ethically responsible to utilize mind control in the animal kingdom? Are human/animal avatars a thing of not the distant but the near future and how will that change the dynamic of the species? If a human brain were in possession of an animal body and the animal body dies while the human brain is occupying it, will the human brain suffer injury or damage? And let’s not even get into the possibility that one human can take possession of the mind of another! These are questions that science will have to sort out, but this much is apparent: the future is happening right now and as FUS technology grows smaller and our knowledge of the brain grows larger and more complex, so too does the responsibility of protecting the intent of such things. We have already seen how great power can generate cataclysmic outcomes in nuclear energy and warfare. The hope of science is not to destroy but to understand. Whether human hands are capable of such delicacy…let’s just say the jury is still out on that score as well.