One rainy morning, bill was riding on his motorcycle, when suddenly in front of him suddenly stopped mail truck. Bill didn’t. The accident paralyzed his lower body. His autonomy — what was left of it — was reduced to voice commands, which allowed him to raise and lower the blinds in the room or adjusting the angle of inclination of a bed with a motor. In all other respects it relies on the assistance round the clock.
Vanya doesn’t know Ann, whose Parkinson’s disease; her hands tremble when she tries to apply make-up or weed the garden. None of them knows Steve, who became blind in adulthood through the fault of degenerative diseases and that sister is helping to navigate the world. To imagine the three of them together sounds like the beginning of a bad joke: go in a bar blind, paralyzed and parkinsonic. But their stories are combined in a new documentary ‘I Am Human’ (“I — man”), which was presented recently at the festival Triberica Film.
The film tells the story of the Trinity which is an experimental treatment of the brain. Their skulls open, inside are inserted the electrodes, and all this with the hope to regain lost abilities, movement, vision, body control and to regain freedom. For each of them this trip, both medical and philosophical. The documentary also examines the promises of neurotechnologies to expand the limits of the brain with the help of chip in the brain.
Taryn southern, one of the Directors of the film, says he started thinking about the brain exactly then, when the TV series “Black mirror” and “Wild West” began to gain popularity. She was fascinated by how science fiction reinvents the role that machines can play in human evolution — not just improving along with people, but actually changing the human species.
Brain-computer interfaces: the future of the human species
Hundreds of thousands of people across the globe are already using brain-computer interfaces (which connect the brain with the computer), their scientists are developing since the 1970s years, largely because of DARPA. Some experts believe that their number will reach one million in the next ten years, and the science behind it, will become even more difficult. All this is embodied in real life and it’s cooler than science fiction.
But the inner working of our brain is still not well understood, and the actual impact of this kind of Neurotechnology is only beginning to emerge. In the brain, hundreds of billions of neurons, each of which is “the same complex as Los Angeles,” and 500 trillion connections, says neuroscientist David Illman. Treatment such as those proposed to the bill, Stephen and Ann, for the most part experimental. There is no guarantee that they will work.
“Interestingly, we can count steps, calories, then we sequence the genome, do the blood work and ismerem pulse, but have virtually no understanding of their brains,” says Brian Johnson, founder and CEO of neuroscientific startup Kernel. “We have a bit of introspection, but otherwise it’s a black box”.
It is the fear of the unknown that separates the characters in the movie “I — man” from science fiction. The decision of bill, Stephen and Anna to insert implants into the brain is a much more complex reality than anything in the “Black mirror”. “Someone cracked your skull,” says Anne in the film. “You don’t know what will happen.”
Ultimately she decided on deep brain stimulation. During this procedure, a brain implanted electrode that stimulates the individual parts (in the case of Ann suppresses the locomotor system). In patients with symptoms of Parkinson’s disease procedure was a wild success. The implant sends the “data” from the brain and delivers the current to the brain, facilitating continuous tremor.
Stephen suggested another experimental treatment, called “Argus”, which includes implantation of the chip under the eyes. Chip clings to the electrodes in the brain. The bill, which requires constant care, voluntarily suffers brain-computer interface that could restore the lost connection between the brain and the nerves in the body. In order to “retrain” your brain, bill looks at the animation of the movement of the hand, representing, as he again moves his hand, and a group of scientists wrote an algorithm to decipher the intention of the bill, which is then sent to electrodes implanted in his arm and head. The idea was to give the bill to control their own muscles.
“It looks like a “star Trek,” said bill on the screen. Out of his head sticking out of the wire. “It’s like science fiction”.
And yet, the main question is about something else: what makes us human? How technology can contribute to the evolution of our species — helping us to restore the lost and pushing us to places that was impossible before?
Brain-computer interfaces promise to restore sight to the blind, to restore hearing to the deaf and to give a sense of control over her own body. But some scientists and entrepreneurs are likely that of neyrotekhnologii will provide us with supernatural strength. What if we hadn’t just tried to return sight to the blind Stephen, and improved it so that he could see in the dark? What if some device not only returned the bill control over his hand, but allowed him to print the words with your mind? Could we cure depression through brain-computer interfaces? Become more empathetic?
It is not a science-fiction scenario. Elon Musk and mark Zuckerberg, each of them has invested in the development of brain-computer interfaces to improve human abilities. Neuralink Mask seeks to improve human cognitive abilitiesso that people can compete with the AI. The idea of a Zuckerberg more is in the car reading my thoughts. Startup of the Johnson Kernel is working on creating brain-computer interface for developing real-world applications in high-resolution brain activity.
“I hope that we will reach a point of technological progress, when it is not limited by technology, and strengthened them. So it’s a question of choices: who we want to be”.
But while the first class of these human cyborgs will not be like robots in performance of Silicon valley. It will be people like bill, Stephen and Anne, who thanks to the small mechanisms in the brain will once again be able to feel a little more human.