This thing costs $299, and it is worth every penny. It uses 14 sensors positioned around my scalp to create a wireless EEG interface between my brain and my computer. I can move objects onscreen by thinking about it. I can click the mouse by thinking “click.” I can watch real-time video maps of my brain activity as I think about different ideas. I can summon specific feelings to navigate through photo albums sorted by emotion.
In short, the future is here, and it is awesome.
Brain-machine interfaces aren’t exactly earth-shaking news anymore, I know. I’ve written here about thought-controlled cursors, and here about sensory feedback systems that allow monkeys to control virtual hands and literally feel virtual textures. But this device makes this technology available and (relatively) affordable for me – and for you.
And we can do anything we want with it.
Are ya with me here?
For instance, I spent most of last night watching waves of neural communication coruscate across my brain as I meditated, imagined, planned, observed, understood, realized, believed and calculated. I watched my left and right hemispheres signal to one another, like two great whales exchanging songs across an ocean, as they worked together to complete tasks. I watched tsunamis of synchronized activation blaze across the screen as disparate thoughts coalesced into dawning realizations. I watched congeries of light dance in the darkness as I thought, “I believe” or “I trust” or “I love.”
And that was just our first night together.
This is what I was talking about when I said we need devices that create real-time feedback loops between our brains and our computers, so we can watch the patterns our thoughts generate as we’re thinking them - the most intimate link ever between human consciousness and technology. We’re hurtling toward the culmination of a process that began millions of years ago in Africa; when one ape, a little smarter than his cousins, looked down at a rock and thought, “I want to use that for something.”
So, guess what this device is being used for right now. Well, for one thing, it’s providing easy computer access to people with physical disabilities, which is fantastic – but other than that, it’s mainly being marketed as a new gimmick for controlling video games.
Come on, people – we can dream so much bigger than this.
By way of inspiration, here’s my all-time favorite short sci-fi story, Exhalation by Ted Chiang. It’ll tell you everything you want to know about my aspirations.
And here’s a little song to set the mood.
Welcome to the Age of Technosophy. Let’s see where our imaginations take us.