|It's Singularity TIME|
The piece is a rhapsodic forecast of the not-too-far-off day, Nicolelis says, when brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) bring about "the liberation of the human brain from the physical constraints imposed by the body."
He maps the way forward, as he sees it, through the brain-wave-controlled prosthetic devices his lab develops, then mind-controlled software and on-body neural apps, to a day, still perhaps a few decades off, when we may be participating in "a conscious network of brains, a collectively thinking true brain net," that may not only allow us to "communicate back and forth with one another just by thinking, but also to vividly experience what (our) counterparts feel and perceive..." (Don't we kind of do that already?)
We will wake up one morning, he says, and realize that we have "given birth to a new species altogether." This new animal would be able to "explore remote environments through avatars and artificial tools controlled by thought alone." The environments he's talking about include "the depths of the oceans to the confines of supernovae, even to the tiny cracks of intracellular space inside our own bodies."
Fun, right?! And potentially profitable, too. The movement's Thomas Edison will be the guy (possibly Nicolelis himself, he suggests) who safely and reliably links, with a two-way in-out connection, the machine world with the neural one: a USB port for the brain. Invest now!
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Meanwhile, the cover story of this week's Time Magazine, looks at Ray Kurzweil's prediction of the "singularity," an event that makes Nicolelis's look pedestrian. The singularity is that future moment when machines become intelligent, adept, and fast enough to create ever more intelligent, adept, and fast machines causing a kind of screaming feedback loop of "progress." After that, says Kurzweil, all bets are off; the only thing he can say for sure is that the post-singularity word won't resemble this one. Not at all.
The article is exhilarating as a thought experiment, but way out there as science journalism goes, despite the fact that the author of the piece, Lev Grossman, writes blithely that, though the inevitability of the singularity sounds like science fiction (and Yes it does!), it isn't. At least, Grossman says, "no more than a weather forecast is science fiction. It's not a fringe idea."
It may or may not be an accurate prediction, but it is most certainly fringe. That's why it's fun to read about and, for the moment anyway, not simply terrifying.