Sunday, 19 May 2013

Brain + computer: The next chapter

While reading some tech blogs, i came across a startling new development in the interface between brains and computers. I quote from the blog "A brain-computer-interface technology created by researchers at Columbia University could turn our brains into automatic image-identifying machines that operate faster than human consciousness." This method combines the image-processing power of the human brain with computer vision to search through images 10 times faster than they could on their own. This cortically coupled computer vision system dubbed C3 vision, was developed to allow hours of footage to be processed very quickly. With the stark increase in recording systems, far too much data is generated on a daily basis, but processing that data can be an arduous task. The brain emits a signal as soon as it sees something interesting, and that "aha" signal can be detected by an electroencephalogram, or EEG cap. While users sift through streaming images or video footage, the technology tags the images that elicit a signal, and ranks them in order of the strength of the neural signatures. Afterwards, the user can examine only the information that their brains identified as important, instead of wading through thousands of images.
After reading the article the system struck me as oddly familiar. A little recollection brought me to the Doctor Who episode "The Long Game". An episode where the Doctor lands in a space station in the year 200,000. It was a news broadcasting station, where the reporters interfaced with all the incoming information from the surface directly via neural implants at amazing speeds. However, it also showed how such a system was capable of being exploited. Think about it, what's the worst part about having employees? Taking care of their working conditions, work-life balance, addressing employees concerns and needs etc. But if you only needed the processing power of their brains, the most 'profitable' way of using it would be to draw a line between the person and his brain. Using the brain as you would use a computer CPU. The long term implications portrayed in that old, sci-fi series are morbid, to say the least, as seen int he latter half of the episode, where the control hub of the entire station was run by dead people, whose brains were directly linked to the core system. Is that what man kind is be destined for, to be used as replaceable computer parts in a vast bio-computerized array? I shudder at even considering the possibility.

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