Here is an excerpt from an article by Micio Kaku for the Wall Street Journal in which he shares his thoughts about the fact that we have learned more about the thinking brain in the last 10-15 years than in all of human history. To read the complete article, check out others, and obtain subscription information, please click here.
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More than a billion people were amazed this summer when a 29-year-old paraplegic man from Brazil raised his right leg and kicked a soccer ball to ceremonially begin the World Cup. The sight of a paralyzed person whose brain directly controlled a robotic exoskeleton (designed at Duke University) was thrilling.
We are now entering the golden age of neuroscience. We have learned more about the thinking brain in the last 10-15 years than in all of previous human history. A blizzard of the new technologies using advanced physics—resulting in scans and tests we know as fMRI, EEG, PET, DBS, CAT, TCM and TES—have allowed scientists to observe thoughts as they ricochet like a pong ball inside the living brain, and then begin the process of deciphering these thoughts using powerful computers.
The Pentagon, witnessing the human tragedy of the wounded warriors from Iraq and Afghanistan, has invested more than $150 million in the military’s Revolutionary Prosthetics program, so that injured veterans can bypass damaged limbs and spinal cords and mentally control state-of-the-art mechanical arms and legs. Already, the technology exists to let you walk into a room and mentally turn on the lights, control appliances, surf the Web, write and send emails, play videogames, dictate articles, control a distant robot or avatar, and even drive a car.
Not just our bodies, but even our memories are now being digitized. Last year at Wake Forest University and the University of Southern California, scientists for the first time were able to record and upload memories directly into an animal brain, which is something straight out of a sci-fi movie like “The Matrix.” Scientists there trained mice to perform certain simple tasks, which can be recorded by sensors placed in their brains. After they forget the task, the digitized memory can be reinserted back into their brain, allowing them to remember.
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Here’s a direct link to the complete article.
Micio Kaku is a professor of theoretical physics at the City College of New York and author of The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind (Doubleday, 2014).