Imagine you have an accident and your spinal cord is damaged. You are paraplegic. They offer you a brain implant to give you back some of your sensory skills. What would you do? Would you connect your brain to a machine? It sounds like a science fiction story, but it isn’t. It’s the story of Nathan Copeland.
In 2004, Nathan Copeland was involved in a traffic accident. Since then he has been unable to take care of himself. Ten years later, the young man underwent an unusual experiment. It was carried out by scientists from the University of Pittsburg. It was a brain implant that they wanted to give him back some sensations. This would be done by inserting microelectrodes into the somatosensory cortex. Then they would connect to a device attached to a robotic arm. The system gave a touch-like feel. Nathan could feel what it was like to feel or press on an object. It is even able to hold a golf ball. The robotic arm is directly connected to your brain.
Another young man, Neil Harbison, had an antenna installed that enabled him to decipher invisible colors such as infrared and ultraviolet. You perceive pictures, music or phone calls from external devices directly into your brain. These interventions are known as’Biohacking‘. How ethical is that?
Another experiment six years ago managed to convey a thought to a person more than 7,000 kilometers away. One of the subjects thought the word “hello”. And it was sent in the form of electrical impulses to the recipient, who interpreted the message using the same procedure. The robotic TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) technique was used. In this way they managed to transmit the word “hello” between two subjects with only the power of the mind.
Large multinational companies like Facebook, Google or Microsoft are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in these studies. One of the most media projects is that of Elon Musk. Four years ago he founded Neuralink, a neurotechnology company specializing in brain implants.
What is the limit?
When could we lose control of our own brain? Bioethics is the branch that analyzes the problems that can arise from it Biohacking. Technology always leads us to make decisions. It has already happened to genetics, and now it is done to artificial intelligence and neurotechnology. We have to think about issues like identity, freedom or free will. It’s not just about going too far. We also need to judge how far it is worth going.
“Neurotechnology can help us to stimulate or improve our capacities. But we have to be careful about how, when and for what purpose we use them. If someone imagines a possible one chop of brains? This would be a devastating consequence both socially and personally. Challenging the limits of technology is nothing new. It was done using nuclear energy, X-rays, or sequencing the human genome. But now it’s about preserving the most valuable thing about the individual: our “I”. What makes us unique.
And what do you think? Would you connect your brain to a machine? Better take the time to answer this question.