A brain–computer interface (BCI), sometimes called a mind-machine interface (MMI), direct neural interface (DNI), synthetic telepathy interface (STI) or brain–machine interface (BMI), is a direct communication pathway between the brain and an external device. BCIs are often directed at assisting, augmenting, or repairing human cognitive or sensory-motor functions.
Research on BCIs began in the 1970s at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) under a grant from the National Science Foundation, followed by a contract from DARPA. The papers published after this research also mark the first appearance of the expression brain–computer interface in scientific literature.
The field of BCI research and development has since focused primarily on neuroprosthetics applications that aim at restoring damaged hearing, sight and movement. Thanks to the remarkable cortical plasticity of the brain, signals from implanted prostheses can, after adaptation, be handled by the brain like natural sensor or effector channels. Following years of animal experimentation, the first neuroprosthetic devices implanted in humans appeared in the mid-1990s.
The history of brain–computer interfaces (BCIs) starts with Hans Berger’s discovery of the electrical activity of the human brain and the development of electroencephalography (EEG). In 1924 Berger was the first to record human brain activity by means of EEG. Berger was able to identify oscillatory activity in the brain by analyzing EEG traces. One wave he identified was the alpha wave (8–13 Hz), also known as Berger’s wave.
Berger’s first recording device was very rudimentary. He inserted silver wires under the scalps of his patients. These were later replaced by silver foils attached to the patients’ head by rubber bandages. Berger connected these sensors to a Lippmann capillary electrometer, with disappointing results. More sophisticated measuring devices, such as the Siemens double-coil recording galvanometer, which displayed electric voltages as small as one ten thousandth of a volt, led to success.
Berger analyzed the interrelation of alternations in his EEG wave diagrams with brain diseases. EEGs permitted completely new possibilities for the research of human brain activities.
Dec 30, 2014
#7: No Form, Feelings, Perceptions, Mental Formations, Consciousness: A Buddhist Perspective on AIby Andrew Cvercko
It seems as though every day we grow closer to creating fully conscious and emergent artificial intelligences. As I’ve written about before, this poses a problem for many religions, especially those that ascribe a special place for humanity and for human consciousness in the cosmos. Buddhism stands out as an exception. Buddhism may be the one system of religious thought that not only accepts but will actively embrace any AIs that we produce as a species.
Dec 26, 2014
#12: Enhancing Virtues: Self-Control and Mindfulnessby J. Hughes
Self-control and attentiveness are cornerstones of moral character, and our capacity for these virtues are about half hard-wired. A child’s capacity for self-control predicts their adult likelihood of a successful life, and of myriad bad habits. I discuss the relationship of attention to moral behavior, the ways we can build a more mindful society, and how we can practice self-control and mindfulness with techniques like fasting, exercise and meditation. But many of us, even if we have above average capacities for self-control and attention, will also benefit from the growing number of technologies that enable self-control, from stimulant medications and treatments for addiction to gene therapies and brain-machine devices.
Dec 20, 2014
Alan Watts by South Park creators (All in one in HD)Gábor Hényel
Alan Wilson Watts (6 January 1915 – 16 November 1973) was a British-born philosopher, writer, and speaker, best known as an interpreter and populariser of Eastern philosophy for a Western audience. Born in Chislehurst, he moved to the United States in 1938 and began Zen training in New York. Pursuing a career, he attended Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, where he received a master’s degree in theology. Watts became an Episcopal priest in 1945, then left the ministry in 1950 and moved to California, where he joined the faculty of the American Academy of Asian Studies.
Watts gained a large following in the San Francisco Bay Area while working as a volunteer programmer at KPFA, a Pacifica Radio station in Berkeley. Watts wrote more than 25 books and articles on subjects important to Eastern and Western religion, introducing the then-burgeoning youth culture to The Way of Zen (1957), one of the first bestselling books on Buddhism. In Psychotherapy East and West (1961), Watts proposed that Buddhism could be thought of as a form of psychotherapy and not a religion. He also explored human consciousness, in the essay “The New Alchemy” (1958), and in the book The Joyous Cosmology (1962).
Towards the end of his life, he divided his time between a houseboat in Sausalito and a cabin on Mount Tamalpais. His legacy has been kept alive by his son, Mark Watts, and many of his recorded talks and lectures are available on the Internet. According to the critic Erik Davis, his “writings and recorded talks still shimmer with a profound and galvanizing lucidity.” - wikipedia
Dec 15, 2014
#24: Cosmic Beings: Transhumanist Deism in Ted Chu’s Cosmic Viewby Giulio Prisco
In Human Purpose and Transhuman Potential: A Cosmic Vision for Our Future Evolution, IEET affiliate scholar Ted Chu, a professor of Economics at New York University in Abu Dhabi and former chief economist for General Motors and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, argues that post-humanity is a logical and necessary evolutionary next step for humanity, and we need a new, heroic cosmic faith for the post-human era. “The ultimate meaning of our lives rests not in our personal happiness but in our contribution to cosmic evolution,” says Chu…
Dec 9, 2014
#27 Enhancing Virtues: Caring (part 1)by J. Hughes
Empathy draws on both mammalian circuits that we share with other animals and cognitive abilities that only appear to be present in our closest relatives, the great apes and and cetaceans, and ourselves. As with happiness and self-control, there is strong evidence that differences in our capacity for compassion and empathy are tied to differences in the brain structures and neurochemistries that they depend on.
Oct 16, 2014
Engineering Enlightenmentby Michael Abrams
Some spend a few decades meditating. Others spend an indeterminate amount of time inquiring after their true selves. Still others ingest ayahuasca or other intense psychoactive drugs. All are seeking the same thing: in a word, enlightenment. Now, a robotics engineer out of California is hoping to help seekers find it another way: with technology.
Sep 30, 2014
Last Things: Cold Comfort in the Far Futureby Gregory Benford
Robert Frost’s famous imagery—fire or ice, take your pick—pretty much sums it up. But lately, largely unnoticed, a revolution has unwound in the thinking about such matters, in the hands of that most rarefied of tribes, the theoretical physicists. Maybe, just maybe, ice isn’t going to be the whole story. Of course, linking the human prospect to cosmology itself is not at all new. The endings of stories are important, because we believe that how things turn out implies what they ultimately mean. This comes from being pointed toward the future, as any ambitious species must be.
Sep 29, 2014
Supertasking and Mindfulnessby Alex Nichols
In an age of unlimited access to information, coupled with an endless bombardment of stimulation from technology, I find it important to reassess our notions of bringing balance to what it means to be focused and present.
Sep 24, 2014
Timescales of the Hedonistic Imperative (6min 31sec)Adam Ford
IEET Contributor records IEET Fellow David Pearce talking about the future of the Hedonistic Imperative.
“The blueprint set out [in the Hedonistic Imperative] outlines only a cartoonish prototype of a mature post-Darwinian paradise. Its sketch of likely future neuro-scientific breakthroughs may well be wrong both in its few specifics and its projected time-scales. Experts in the relevant specialist fields will doubtless wince, at least in places. For The Hedonistic Imperative consists in a hand-waving, cross-disciplinary romp through dauntingly complex specialist topics. Inevitably, some of the pop neuroscience is simplistic to the point of parody. Eyebrows should be raised, too, at the dogmatic brevity with which various philosophical problems deserving book-length treatment are dispatched in a single sentence. The multitude of practical, medico-legal and socio-political problems which fulfilling our neurochemical Manifest Destiny will entail are largely passed over as well. These caveats are important. Yet leaving them aside, the biological program may be divided, somewhat arbitrarily, into three stages. They are here ranked in order of difficulty. Luckily, the stages happen to coincide in relative ethical importance, since crude harm-reduction, cruelty-prevention and pain-abolition are easier to accomplish than refining the architectural subtleties of paradise. Less happily, any biochemical description of the mechanics of the sublime just travesties the nature of the experience itself. The sub-academese prose below unavoidably debases what it aims to evoke. This is because of the contaminated associations of any terms associated with drug-abuse, genetic engineering, eugenics, or even the emotionally frigid atmosphere of the laboratory. Our present perspective on utopian biopsychiatry is jaundiced. For our education system virtually ignores the neurobiological foundations of all emotional life. Happily, that system also provides the formal tools for us to describe and escape from our predicament.”
“Unfortunately, there’s no way to map out the extent of our cognitive closure from within. This is frustrating. If quantum cosmologists can theorise about the first 10-43 second after the Big Bang, thirteen billion and more years ago, and still, rightly, be counted as practising hard science, it’s a shame that conjectures we do make about the living world a few thousand or million years hence have to be treated, not even as soft science, but as science-fiction. There are too many unknown unknowns to predict with any rational confidence. Merely extrapolating present trends is bound to mislead. The projected time-scales of even relatively predictable biomedical triumphs, e.g. the elimination of the ageing process, are vague. HI may veer towards heady speculation; but by the end of third millennium, life and consciousness may be more foreign to the contemporary imagination than even the most extravagant prediction dreamed up here. On the other hand, for all we know, some variant of the pleasure-principle is a universal - and universally intelligible - signature of sentient life; and its apotheosis in some sort of sublime cosmic orgasm is the ultimate destiny of the Universe. [This may overtax one’s credulity; the Big Bang indeed!] We simply don’t have enough evidence. That said, we may still incautiously proceed. Once suffering has been abolished, the era of old-fashioned moral choices will come to an end. The physiological mechanisms underlying the mind-brain’s value-creation processes will be unravelled during the invention of a pain-free world; but the kind of naturalised, mind-dependent value created by paradise-engineers after the phenomenology of nastiness has disappeared won’t embrace ethical categories in a sense we presently understand. The heroic moral urgency will have gone; indeed there is a risk that truly hedonistic themes as discussed in these sections of HI will divert attention away from the utter moral seriousness of the whole post-Darwinian project as conceived today. ” - Pearce