Thought-controlled computer puts focus on consciousness

by | Mar 22, 2024 | Story Ideas | 0 comments

March 2024

The first human with a Neuralink computer chip implanted in his brain, a quadriplegic 29-year-old, has demonstrated how he can move things with his thoughts. Aside from being a transformative technological leap, this event raises questions about the nature of human consciousness.

In a video posted on Neuralink’s X account, former athlete Noland Arbaugh describes how he can now move a computer cursor around a screen to play chess and video games. Arbaugh, who had the chip surgery in January, was paralyzed after a diving accident eight years ago.

Some experts believe that the spectacular new technology could revolutionize care for the disabled. There are more than 5 million people living with paralysis in the U.S. alone.

Neuralink Founder Elon Musk has said that his goal with this enterprise is to develop a technology that helps “merge humans with AI”, according to online magazine Vox – a vision that is either promising or threatening, depending on one’s standpoint.

The prospect of brain-computer interfaces raises ethical questions about human identity and autonomy. Will it be possible by outsiders to control the implantees? The risk of “brainjacking” is discussed in a 2018 scientific article. It also puts focus on the nature of consciousness, which is an entry point for journalists to cover this mesmerizing topic at the interface of science and spirituality.

There is an ongoing scientific debate whether consciousness is produced in the brain or has a nonphysical origin. However, the ability to remotely control devices via neural signals still does not answer the question whether the neuron that is firing actually is the thought or rather is correlated with the conscious intent, which is perceived as a thought. Where does the intent to steer the cursor originate?

In a sense, Neuralink’s groundbreaking trial shows that cells in the brain can be tools — just as cells in the hand muscles can be tools.

Anders Bolling

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