Telepathy is the act of communicating using just the thoughts that arise in your brain. But how far are we from making this idea an everyday reality?
The smartphones we use today on a regular basis would have sounded like an idea for a sci-fi novel, a few decades back. But still, here you are, possibly reading this article on your own smartphone. The same way, technology-enabled telepathy will become a reality in the not-so-distant future. Scientists have already developed devices that can read thoughts using brainwave-detecting electrodes.
These tiny, flexible electrodes called as “stentrodes” could be implanted into our brains through the bloodstream, from where they can read neural activity and transmit it to a device or another stentrode implanted in your friend’s brain. This could also be used to play a simplistic video game like “Tetris” or aid paralyzed people to communicate their thoughts by interpreting brain signals. These computer-to-brain and brain-to-brain interface devices could also aid in collaborative problem solving. Although complex thought reading could be a bit harder to achieve, primitive tech can mimic and transmit ‘images’ that we imagine in our minds. Other implications of this tech are mind-sharing for collaborative learning and motor function mapping.
In addition to thoughts, people could transmit sensations like touch, taste, vision and smell to a friend’s brain. It could also be possible to experience simulated sensations without actually, physically experiencing them. The question arises- how do we interpret,
transmit and re-interpret brain signals? Electroencephalogram(EEG) can be used to capture neural activity of a sender and Machine Learning(ML) algorithms interpret the signals to read thoughts such as words.The digital information gleaned from this can be transmitted across the globe through the Internet. Converting this digital data back to words is the tricky part. One solution is to convert the digital info into optical stimuli like “pulses” of light and using Artificial Intelligence algorithms that could be interpreted back into words.
One major breakthrough in this domain is “Brain Net”. Scientists conducted a study by networking rat brains together to enhance performance at a specific task, using complex implanted electrodes known as brain-to-brain interfaces. By using the ability to interpret two different kinds of electrical signals, the scientists proved that networked brains easily outperformed the individual rats. Imagine the consequences this would have, if applied to networked human brains. In addition to enhancing performance, it could also aid in collaborative problem solving and mind reading.
However, this technology also raises ethical concerns. How can we ensure privacy in thought-transfer? Can a malicious third-party hack into your brain and read your thoughts? Do you still have complete agency when there are electrodes communicating on your behalf? Will you still be considered human or some kind of symbiotic part-machine creature?! There are no easy answers to these questions. However, it is important to ensure that this technology doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. That’s why it’s important for policy-makers, innovators, individuals and corporations to ensure that any kind of neuro-tech be used responsibly and that the ethical standards are met. But then, like all technology mankind has ever invented, it’s up to the user to decide if it’s going to be used for the betterment of humanity or for cruel intentions.