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Paul Merrell

The coming merge of human and machine intelligence - 0 views

  • Now, as the Internet revolution unfolds, we are seeing not merely an extension of mind but a unity of mind and machine, two networks coming together as one. Our smaller brains are in a quest to bypass nature's intent and grow larger by proxy. It is not a stretch of the imagination to believe we will one day have all of the world's information embedded in our minds via the Internet.
  • BCI stands for brain-computer interface, and Jan is one of only a few people on earth using this technology, through two implanted chips attached directly to the neurons in her brain. The first human brain implant was conceived of by John Donoghue, a neuroscientist at Brown University, and implanted in a paralyzed man in 2004. These dime-sized computer chips use a technology called BrainGate that directly connects the mind to computers and the Internet. Having served as chairman of the BrainGate company, I have personally witnessed just how profound this innovation is. BrainGate is an invention that allows people to control electrical devices with nothing but their thoughts. The BrainGate chip is implanted in the brain and attached to connectors outside of the skull, which are hooked up to computers that, in Jan Scheuermann's case, are linked to a robotic arm. As a result, Scheuermann can feed herself chocolate by controlling the robotic arm with nothing but her thoughts.
  • Mind meld But imagine the ways in which the world will change when any of us, disabled or not, can connect our minds to computers.
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  • Back in 2004, Google's founders told Playboy magazine that one day we'd have direct access to the Internet through brain implants, with "the entirety of the world's information as just one of our thoughts." A decade later, the road map is taking shape. While it may be years before implants like BrainGate are safe enough to be commonplace—they require brain surgery, after all—there are a host of brainwave sensors in development for use outside of the skull that will be transformational for all of us: caps for measuring driver alertness, headbands for monitoring sleep, helmets for controlling video games. This could lead to wearable EEGs, implantable nanochips or even technology that can listen to our brain signals using the electromagnetic waves that pervade the air we breathe. Just as human intelligence is expanding in the direction of the Internet, the Internet itself promises to get smarter and smarter. In fact, it could prove to be the basis of the machine intelligence that scientists have been racing toward since the 1950s.
  • Neurons may be good analogs for transistors and maybe even computer chips, but they're not good building blocks of intelligence. The neural network is fundamental. The BrainGate technology works because the chip attaches not to a single neuron, but to a network of neurons. Reading the signals of a single neuron would tell us very little; it certainly wouldn't allow BrainGate patients to move a robotic arm or a computer cursor. Scientists may never be able to reverse engineer the neuron, but they are increasingly able to interpret the communication of the network. It is for this reason that the Internet is a better candidate for intelligence than are computers. Computers are perfect calculators composed of perfect transistors; they are like neurons as we once envisioned them. But the Internet has all the quirkiness of the brain: it can work in parallel, it can communicate across broad distances, and it makes mistakes. Even though the Internet is at an early stage in its evolution, it can leverage the brain that nature has given us. The convergence of computer networks and neural networks is the key to creating real intelligence from artificial machines. It took millions of years for humans to gain intelligence, but with the human mind as a guide, it may only take a century to create Internet intelligence.
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    Of course once the human brain is interfaced with the internet, then we will be able to do the Vulcan mind-meld thing. And NSA will be busily crawling the Internet for fresh brain dumps to their data center, which then encompasses the entire former state of Utah. Conventional warfare is a thing of the past as the cyberwar commands of great powers battle for control of the billions of minds making up BrainNet, the internet's successor.  Meanwhile, a hackers' Reaper malware trawls BrainNet for bank account numbers and paswords that it forwards for automated harvesting of personal funds. "Ah, Houston ... we have a problem ..."  
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