How To Control A Machine Using Your Mind
The BBC published an article yesterday under the headline How To Control A Machine Using Your Mind.
Already, I can think of one way to make this happen, using the technology we already have.
Step 1: Focus your mind.
Step 2: Direct your willpower into your hand.
Step 3: Use your hand to control the machine.
Really, the body is a tool that is ideally suited as an interface between our minds and the world outside our bodies. What’s the benefit of trying to develop brain scanning technology to use computer software to do what our bodies can already do?
The BBC article begins with the inspiring story of technology that helps paralyzed people regain a fraction of fully-functioning mobility. Certainly, it makes sense to do what we can to help people with disabilities to overcome the barriers they face, but technology that does so merely moves people toward the extraordinary functionality that our natural biology typically provides.
The article goes on to where the real money is – in business applications for new gadgets used by able-bodied people. Imagine, the author says, ”no button pressing, typing, screen tapping or fumbling with remote controls, just brain power.” Of course, in order to use these mind-to-machine interfaces, you first have to go through a great deal more trouble than what’s involved in pressing a button or tapping a screen. You need to get hooked up to an elaborate technological device, go through lengthy procedures to calibrate the device to your mind, and then practice, practice, practice.
Why is this extra trouble of getting our minds in synch with a machine preferable with the relatively quick effort of just pushing a button or tapping a screen? The BBC gives the example of a mind-reading machine in a car developed by auto manufacturer Nissan that can execute what a driver wants to do a split second faster than the driver is capable of. ”On a mountain road with lots of hairpin bends for example, brain-to-vehicle technology should make it easier to keep the car under control, says Nissan.”
Once again, the direct mind-to-machine interface is a technological solution in search of a problem that already has a more simple remedy. We already know how to navigate hairpin mountain roads safely: Drive at an appropriate speed that allows us adequate time to react. When drivers lose control on mountain roads with tight curves, it’s because they’re impatient, and pushing their cars to unsafe speeds. It’s safe to presume that, if we had cars with direct mind-to-machine interfaces that made our driving a split second more responsive, many drivers would simply use this small improvement in capability to increase their speed on mountain roads, rather than becoming more safe. Is an extra 5 miles per hour on a mountain road really so important?
The BBC writes that some of these new mind-to-machine interface devices are requiring surgery on people’s heads, to implant electronic sensors on the surface of their brain tissue.
I’ll choose to continue to use my hands to push a button, thank you.