For Future of Mind Control, Robot-Monkey Trials Are Just a Start

By | July 12, 2008

A study in the journal Nature this spring all but confirmed the latest evolution in the hard-charging, heady field of cybernetics: Monkeys can control machines with their brains. In the experiment, conducted by neuroscientists at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, a pair of macaque monkeys with electrodes implanted in their brains were able to quickly learn how to operate a robot arm as though it were their own, successfully fee ding themselves more than half the time.  … But the biggest obstacle of all could be the interface itself. Only with the promise of restoring bodily functions would most human test subjects agree to have electrodes permanently implanted in their heads. Barring some bizarre shift in values (and a corresponding spike in unethical surgeons), the leap from rehabilitation-oriented interfaces to elective ones is nearly impossible to fathom. Reaching a wider audience would require a revolution in noninvasive interfaces, such as electrode-studded caps. “The problem is you can’t get the same kind of resolution. You only get binary data,” says Nicolelis. “To reconstruct true trajectories would require new technology—something that might allow you to go through bone without opening it, some optical method we haven’t seen yet.”  And that would amount to a breakthrough in physics, as there is zero indication that any such transmission method is imminent. Until someone reinvents the electrode, the most advanced brain-controlled devices will be reserved for the disabled.– popularmechanics

Cool, but why didn’t the experimenter saw open his own skull and stick electrodes in his own brain? If he needed two people for the experiment, he could have used his mother too.

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