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Adam Isaacs Instructor: Malcolm Campbell English 1103 Due 11/8/2012 Altering the Mind: Manipulating the Brain with Machines

For years, popular culture has been riddled with models of what our future could look like, and some may not be far off. They depict humans overcoming our biological limitations through machine-based enhancements, or by interacting with a virtual world generated by a computer. Of course, Hollywood films give a glorified and highly varied image of what these futures may contain, but the concepts are already appearing in labs around the world. For example, the US Air Force was already has been researching methods of training soldiers in virtually constructed environments since 2007 (Powell). The technology that is currently being used to allow this is known as brain-machine interfaces (BMIs). They allow communication with the brain by reading chemical and electrical signals that are generated by our brain at all times. The BMIs provide us with numerous capabilities, such as will allow for such things as fully realized prosthetic limbs, generating brain signals to allow deaf people to hear with cochlear implants (Bostrom 41), and, the topic of this paper, full immersion in to a virtual environment. Noninvasive BMIs Up until recently, most communication with our brains had been done in a noninvasive manner. Machines called Functional magnetic resonance imagers (fMRIs) and electroencephalograms (EEGs) are machines used to image peoples changing electrical brain signals from the outside and interpret them using computers. With this technology, very basic

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activities can be performed, such as moving a cursor around a computer screen or telling an electric wheelchair to move your chosen direction (Lebedev 537). A well-known example of a noninvasive BMI is an EEG headset that was worn by Stephen Hawking called the iBrain, which allowed him to communicate again (Murray). Also, a company named InteraXon is under a federal grant developing an EEG headset to be sold commercially. It is marketed as a way to interact with your technology using your mind (A Stylish New). These EEG headsets can also be used to transcribe your brain signals on a computer for you to see. According to research done by Mikhail Lebedev and Miguel Nicolelis, humans can become aware of certain brain rhythms associated with different activities that “enabl[es] human subjects to gain voluntary control over brain rhythms” (Lebedev 537) using the information generated by EEGs. This ability has also been tested on cats and dogs, and they, too, became aware of their own rhythms., as well. Although this seems like a lot to take in already, noninvasive BMIs are hindered by the very fact that they are outside of our body. What do you mean they’re hindered? How does that correlate to it being a lot? They are “limited due to bandwidth, noise, and resolution issues” (Bostrom 43) caused by our skull. This deems that the only way to advance the field is to go inside our brains. Invasive BMIs As researchers began noticing the limits of noninvasive methods, researchers they started tending toward surgical implementation of BMIs to get better signals. Since the growth of technology has given us much smaller computer chips, this option has become viable. These invasive BMI computer chips have been built to connect to specific neuronal pathways in our brain to directly receive input from individual neurons (Lebedev 538). With ever-advancing

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technologies, these BMIs can run on less power, which requires smaller batteries, meaning they can be placed in more invasive areas of our brains. This minimizing energy demand has allowed and led a group of MIT engineers to produce a fuel cell that can run on glucose, our body's natural fuel source. This fuel cell is made out of platinum, which has a good history of being accepted by our body's immune system, and generates hundreds of microwatts of energy using the same process our body does to take electrons from glucose. These electrons provide just enough current to power a small BMI (New Energy). In to the future, this new technology will allow us to implement BMIs for longer and in harder to reach places. What kinds of places? The ability to attain such a fine measurement with a BMI has led to the aforementioned fully realized limb control and cochlear implants (Bostrom 41) but and most importantly to the advancement of knowledge on how our brain reacts to certain stimuli. Using this knowledge, we can construct an environment on a computer, just like a video game does, and control the entire simulation with our brain. This has endless uses for recreation and therapeutic benefit; you would practically virtually feel like you were there. This brings up a major flaw BMIs have held since their origin. Good counter argument. These BMIs interpret electrical and chemical brain signals and send them to a machine to do a task, but get no feedback from the machine. This would render a prosthetic arm as a tool attached to your body rather than an arm itself, or the virtual environment mentioned as a video game controlled with your mind, not an environment experienced by your mind. Good examples! Brain-Machine-Brain Interfaces A research team from Duke University had proposed the same issue I discussed about the lack of response from the machine and has been working on a solution. The team has been developing brain-machine-brain interfaces (BMBIs) that, aptly named, receives data from the

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brain, sends it, and then transmits a response back to the brain. It is referred to as “bi-directional communication with the brain” (O'Doherty). This is the next clear step toward a virtual world that is accessible by human beings. After fine-tuning the computer chip, the team at Duke implemented the BMBI surgically in to a rhesus monkey's brain. Why a monkey over any other animal? The chip has a virtual environment programmed on to it for the monkey to interact with. It consists of three different objects, each with their own texture programmed in. They are placed next to each other and the monkey has a virtual arm also programmed in to manipulate these objects. Data from the chip is also transmitted to a computer for the researchers to analyze (O'Doherty). ^Combine with above and below paragraphs! Once activated, the monkey was given multiple tests to run through with the objects. These tests are very similar, if not exact, to experiments done on rhesus monkeys in our spatial reality. It The monkey had to choose out which object the researcher wanted it to, and was rewarded for doing so. It responded correctly the same percentage it would have if the objects were actually in front of it. Also, the monkey sat the rest of its body remained still during the experiment, focusing only on the experiment at hand. The rhesus monkey was able to comprehend and carry out all experiments the researchers conducted deeming the research and experiment a success (O'Doherty). The biggest component of progress in the Duke research is the gained ability to send information back to the brain. This provides the full sensation of immersion and ensures an indistinguishable difference between virtual and spatial realities. You have a lot of short paragraphs, maybe you could combine a few? Weak and Strong Virtual Reality

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With the pathway to virtual reality discussed, the types should be mentioned; Virtual reality is divided into two key genres: weak and strong virtual reality. Weak virtual reality is defined as distinguishable from spatial reality. It could be a video game you go inside of, or an environment with an avatar programmed that you take the place of; however, but you must be aware that it is separate from spatial reality to be defined as weak virtual reality. On the other hand, strong virtual reality is when virtually generated objects become indistinguishable from spatial reality. This can be due to the full-scale immersion of a virtual environment that your BMBI is mocking or due to the fact that virtual objects have been placed over spatial reality to enhance its functionality (Powell). These both have their uses, with weak virtual reality straying more toward the recreational and training side (Powell) while strong virtual reality pertains more to cultural or personal preferences, as you could modify your perception of spatial reality to fit your desires by modifying your BMBIs programming. In a strong virtual reality setting, your BMBI could be altered to inherently change who you are. It could alter how your brain responds to stimulus from your environment and even create new stimulus for your brain (O'Doherty), which could have personality-changing effects. What does this graph mean? This is an issue for many individuals and creates moral and ethical

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grounds to oppose BMI and BMBI implementation. According to Nick Bostrom, a scientist and philosopher in the field of robotics, though, people do not want to change who they are. He claims that people are more willing to change something about themselves the less fundamental it is to who they are, and gives the graph below from a study done in 2008 by Riis, Simmons, and Goodwin: I would paste the graph after this setence Bostrom also points out that some enhancements people seek do change their personality in some ways, but these patients expressed that “their enhanced selves were their 'true' selves” (Bostrom 39), possibly producing an even better identity than before. This type of personalityaltering enhancement could be held in comparison to a pharmaceutical solution to a problem such as depression or attention-deficit disorder, though still not changing a fundamental quality to self. Potential Benefits The benefits that could come from BMBIs are endless. Based simply on the research presented, we could presume that a mechanical enhancement could easily be interfaced with a BMBI. This could lead to an arm that “receives and displays text messages from friends, plays mp3s and videos or perhaps acts as a flamethrower” (Bostrom 42), which are potential selling points according to a discussion held online. What discussion held online? I might take that part out and just leave the impressive abilities at that. Social media could be an immersive, interactive experience that blends right in to your wall, as a strong virtual reality component. All of our technology, such as televisions, cell phones and computers, could all be streamlined in to our reality with strong virtual reality representations. These cultural shifts will further speed our society up and lead to more information bring processed by our brains.

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Wide-scale implementation of BMBIs could also lead to an improvement of morale on a personal level, considering the state of your brain can be decided with a programmable computer chip. Good point! Also, IN addition, you can take a virtual trip to the mountains and you would not be able to tell the difference between that and a real vacation, considering taking into account the BMBI would produce the same brain signals as you would going on an actual vacation. The ability to dictate our own reality in such a grandiose manner could lead to the collapse of chemical dependence and pharmaceutical negative side-effects, as well. Truly, the only limitations with a machine that can read and produce thoughts in your head is are your imagination or and the programming itself; the benefits are endless. Potential Negatives To juxtapose, there are many negatives to go along with the positives of BMIs and BMBIs. Even on a noninvasive level, Bostrom says that EEG detectors can be implemented publicly and used for purposes “such as neuromarketing, deception detection, biometrics, and personal identification or characterization” (Bostrom 43). This is a huge invasion of our privacy as free individuals, especially if done without our consent. Hell yes it is! Biometrics is a technique of identifying individuals based on their displayed traits and quirks, which would only be easier if BMIs allowed biometrics to use our thoughts as another trait in its arsenal. Another frightening negative is that a study done for a BMI security conference claims it can read the minds of individuals participating in it. By analyzing how participants’ brains responded to certain images or characters using BMIs, researchers could guess users PIN numbers and street addresses with up to sixty percent accuracy ('Mind Control'). Also, on a more speculative front, if your neural information is stored on your BMBI computer chip, it could potentially be hacked just like all other wireless technology. This could lead to another way of external persons gaining

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access two your information or potentially making your BMBI work against you. Wow, that’s crazy. What huge outcomes on society would occur? Concluding Remarks BMIs and BMBIs have had a short, rapidly accelerating lifestyle but clearly have a future in our lifetime. The possibilities they present are endless. With both positives and negatives, like everything in life, the process must be taken gradually and with caution. Even for those who are against the idea of enhancing the human body with machines, thought must be given to the situation. Everyone will be affected by what is going to happen with this technology, and given its likelihood, “it is prudent to formulate policies and regulations that will mitigate [its] ill effects before the technologies are widespread” (McGee), according to Ellen McGee and Gerald Maguire of Cambridge University. Move to beginning of quote. They also mention how political and moral groups are concerned with genetic modification of humans although its “enhancements are inherently limited by biology” (McGee), while machine-based enhancements are not nearly as restricted but not being discussed. So, With this being said, before the negative effects of this technology become apparent, we, as humans, need to discuss the potentials and boundaries of this technology to brace ourselves for what is coming. Do we need to discuss? Or research and realize the possible effects?

Adam, I thought your EIP was really interesting! It’s crazy how advanced our technology is getting, and most people are so oblivious to it. My paper on the future of robotics reminds me of your topic. The advancement of our technological world is definitely alarming. Your paper has very useful, valid information about brain-machine interfaces, and I learned a lot about them. I liked how you explained each confusing term to an average person and created a “dumbed

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down” version if you will. Also, I liked how your paper flowed in a way that clearly showed your journey in exploring this topic. A few things that stuck out to me were the numerous short paragraphs and the graph. I think if you combined the paragraphs that had the same topic your paper would flow a little better. Also, I was wondering during the whole paper what your thoughts were on BMI’s and BMBI’s. I think in your conclusion you should let the reader know your opinions on what you explored. And in regards to the graph, I don’t know if I just didn’t understand what it was and the significance or what but maybe you should explain it a little further and connect it to our world today. Other than that, I thought your draft was awesome. The things I highlighted were just confusing terms or things I thought could be said another way to make your thoughts more clear. Great job! 

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Works Cited "A Stylish New Brain-Sensing Headband." Kurzweil Accelerating Intelligence. Kurweil Accelerating Intelligence, 22 October 2012. Web. 1 Oct. 2012. Bostrom, Nick, and Anders Sandberg. The Future of Identity. Oxford: Oxford University, 2011. Print. Lebedev, Mikhail A., and Miguel A.L. Nicolelis. "Brain-machine Interfaces: Past, Present and Future." Trends in Neurosciences 29.9 (2006): 536-543.University of Texas. Web. 1 Oct. 2012. McGee, Ellen, and Gerald Maguire. "Becoming Borg to Become Immortal: Regulating Brain Implant Technologies."Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics16.3 (2007): n. pag. Cambridge Journals. Web. 1 Oct. 2012. "'Mind Control' Gaming Devices Leak Users' Secrets." Kurzweil Accelerating Intelligence. Kurweil Accelerating Intelligence, 13 June 2012. Web. 1 Oct. 2012. Murray, Peter. "Brain Scanner Being Used To Give Stephen Hawking A New Voice."Singularity HUB. Science. Technology. The Future of Mankind. Singularity HUB, 06 Apr. 2012. Web. 1 Oct. 2012. "New Energy Source for Future Medical Implants: Brain Glucose." Kurzweil Accelerating Intelligence. Kurweil Accelerating Intelligence, 13 June 2012. Web. 1 Oct. 2012. O'Doherty, Joseph Emmanuel. "Brain-Machine-Brain Interface." Duke University Libraries. Duke University, n.d. Web. 1 Oct. 2012. <http://dukespace.lib.duke.edu/dspace/handle/ 10161/3951>.

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Powell, Robert. "Future Cyborgs: Human-Machine Interface for Virtual Reality Applications." The Air University. United States Air Force, n.d. Web. 1 Oct. 2012. <www.au.af.mil/au/ awc/awcgate/cst/bh_powell.pdf>.

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