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Controlling Computers With the Brain 253

Killam0n takes note of a story in CNN Money on progress in controlling computers via brainwaves. From an aspirin-sized implant a quadriplegic is now using to play computer games, the article extrapolates out to a near future in which we will all be wearing headband computers and IM'ing one another as if telepathically. "Two years ago, a quadriplegic man started playing video games using his brain as a controller. That may just sound like fun and games for the unfortunate, but really, it spells the beginning of a radical change in how we interact with computers — and business will never be the same. Someday, keyboards and computer mice will be remembered only as medieval-style torture devices for the wrists. All work — emails, spreadsheets, and Google searches — will be performed by mind control."
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Controlling Computers With the Brain

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  • by ribuck ( 943217 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @04:46PM (#19402993) Homepage
    This reminds me of the futuristic story "Manna" [] by Marshall Brain (the founder of

    In the story, computers progressively dehumanise work in the interests of efficiency (imagine Amazon's Mturk applied to McDonalds). When things get really bad, the protagonist is lucky enough to be rescued and taken to Australia where an alternative future project has produced what seems at first glance to be paradise (but is it really?).

    Anyway, the human-computer interface in the Australia project is an implant that replaces the top three vertebrae.

    The story is not a masterpiece, but it's an enjoyable and thought-provoking read.
  • Powerful brains (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jeff Hornby ( 211519 ) <jthornby@sympati[ ]ca ['co.' in gap]> on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @04:49PM (#19403049) Homepage
    But what if my brain isn't powerful enough to control a computer?
  • You need an agent. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by twitter ( 104583 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @04:52PM (#19403107) Homepage Journal

    Screw that! I'm not connecting my brain to the company network.

    Sooner or later, you won't have a choice. Things will have to be done and you won't be given another way to do it.

    What you will want then is a trusted agent between you and the network. If you did not worry about your computer being run by free software that you can trust, you should start now. Now more than ever, what's yours should stay yours.

  • by cyberianpan ( 975767 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @05:24PM (#19403643)
    As is many people, especially those engaging on /. connect in a bit to much. Daily we've x personal emails, y phone conversations & z page impressions & these numbers are all getting higher. Our attention spans break down from 40 --> 30 --> ... 5 mins in such environments as is.

    Being persistently connected at a cognitive level might be dangerous -
    we will start processing informational subliminally if over-loaded & yes for example this could lead to brainwashing...

    certainly tiring ...

    it would force us to structure our days better & jack out entirely even during work just to escape the buzzing, but not all will- if we've information / net addicts with the crude i/o devices of today what will come in 20 years ?
  • by Yvanhoe ( 564877 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @05:41PM (#19403881) Journal
    lapsus exist in the real world, you have to control your mind for these not to happen. I think the same is really easy to do once you can have a feedback to know what exactly is "heard". Right now it seems frightening because you don't know how it works, but once you have tried it and created a communication model in your brain, I think you will be fully able to retain "thought-saying" "jackass" while still thinking it
  • by GiantMonkey ( 664532 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @05:54PM (#19404017) Journal
    One of the profs at my school who works on neural prostheses for para/quadriplegics, has pointed out that this technology could very well be overkill. He showed us a video of someone with neural implants controlling a computer compared to someone using one of those mouses mounted on someones head who can use eye blinks as mouse clicks. The neural implants were far slower and couldn't produce smooth motions at all (the man was trying to sketch something with mspaint) whereas with a head mounted mouse the user was able to play a game of solitaire without problems. Granted, this was a very primitive implant that likely can be improved a lot, but is it worth the hundreds of thousands of dollars per patient right now for barely functional neural implants when we have a simpler, cheaper, more reliable, less dangerous solution?
  • by dlthomas ( 762960 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @06:09PM (#19404187)
    Trusting trust, with respect to compilers, was solved a while ago. Provided you have the source for one compiler, compile it on two unrelated compilers. This gives you two binaries which are very probably bitwise different, but should be functionally identical if no one is doing anything fishy. Compile the original source with each of these. The same source through (functionally) the same compiler should produce bitwise identical results. This is easy to verify. If they are the same, then either *both* original compilers have been tampered with *in the same way*, or the result is a true compilation of the source. If that's not thorough enough for you, pick further unrelated compilers, and more of them. You can get the probability of tampering down vanishingly small. Note that it doesn't matter how old/obscure/slow/pessimizing the compilers in question are, as long as they correctly support the language.
  • Monsters from the Id (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Nefarious Wheel ( 628136 ) * on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @08:52PM (#19405609) Journal
    The plot of Forbidden Planet -- possibly the best SF movie to ever come out of the 50's -- had in the Planet of the Krell (first major Rotoscope production too iirc) the concept that the original inhabitants had destroyed themselves after they'd learned to control their planet's engines by their minds alone. "Monsters from the Id" complained Dr. Morbius; their innermost desires controlled the engines of destruction, bypassing the conscious censors.

    Another point of view is the decadent society of Moorcock's "Dancers at the End of Time" where mind control of engines of construction and destruction led to a global ennui where all forward motion of society had ceased.

    The very best of these in terms of simple imagery is I believe Alan Dean Foster's short story "With Friends Like These..." which still sends shivers down my back, and is possibly the only modern-era short story to match the best of the Golden Era SF for star quality.

    So what will it all lead to, sports? Will we build something amazing, huge and new with these mind-driven machines, or will we simply amuse ourselves to death?

Forty two.