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Imagine Beyond, episode 3: The Mind

Our brain is a miracle of nature. It is the central point from which our senses and all functions of the body are controlled, most of them subconsciously. In the course of evolution, we have developed our consciousness, learned to communicate with each other in different ways, and designed tools to help us with our daily tasks. Our brain is unique in the animal world. But what happens when you combine this miracle with the latest technology?

In the third part of our Imagine Beyond series, we deal with the augmentation of our mind. What is already possible today in the field of brain research? What would a future look like, in which people connect more than ever before with technology? What would be the downside of such a development? But first of all, we want to look at how the mental connection between humans and machines can be created.

Our Mind

geralt - Pixabay

Raise your left hand and clench a fist. It doesn't sound difficult at first, isn't it? After all, you do this movement several times a day without thinking much about it. But do you know what happens in your body and especially in your brain to make this movement possible? About 86 billion neurons in our brain constantly communicate with each other so that we can feel, act and think. For a single action, like the clenching of a fist, complex chemical and electrical processes take place on thousands of cells in milliseconds.

What is a Brain-Computer-Interface?

Imagine you are a brain scientist and want to develop a robotic hand that responses just to the same to brain impulses like a human hand. How will this work? It requires an interface between the human brain and the technology, a so-called brain-computer interface (BCI). BCIs are based on the observation that the imagination of an action triggers measurable changes in electrical brain activity. The imagination of clenching our hand, for instance, leads to an activation of our motor cortex. However, communication between humans and machines has so far only been possible in one direction. We can see that something is happening, but we do not feel it.


via GIPHY

Do we need this Technology

The application possibilities of this technology are manifold. Rehabilitation is one area. Tesla founder Elon Musk and his company Neuralink are advancing into the field of BCIs in order to create new ways of healing in medicine and even more...

The technology could also be used for entertainment or in everyday life. We could enormously improve the performance of our brain, communicate with our partner through thoughts, control devices with our senses or immerse ourselves in deeper virtual worlds than ever before. But how will technology affect us humans and how will we behave?

The question is: Do we want that? This may sound very futuristic now, but the only thing that might distinguish us from machines in the future could be our mind.