How Close Are We to Controlling Machines With Our Minds?

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it
again – brains are amazing. And we’ve put some the best of them to work
devising incredible machines that can beat us at our own games, bring virtual worlds
to life, perform quantum calculations, and exponentially expand what we’re capable
of as a species. But when we interact with those machines, sometimes it still looks like this. But imagine: it’s date night, and you project a silent command across the room to turn on
some mood music. Or, imagine you’re a paralyzed genius, but
you can communicate effortlessly through a computer. Imagine you can write volumes, without ever
learning to type. How close are we to controlling machines with our minds? It’s been said that humans have something of a communication “bandwidth problem.” You're always seeing things, you're smelling things, you're feeling things, you're hearing
things, and all of that's a lot of information that you're collecting in real time. We call that a high-bandwidth, and by bandwidth
we just mean the rate of information that can flow over a particular time scale. The information coming into you is Niagara
Falls. The information coming out of you is like
a drop from a dropper. If you think about how you generate your interactions
with the machine, your brain is capable of so much more. A more direct connection between brain and
machine could be the key to unlocking that potential. And this idea goes by many names, because
it’s a vast and complex field. So you can think of brain-computer interfaces
as being used for rehabilitative purposes, for assessment purposes, and for enhancement
purposes. Thought-controlled wheelchairs or prosthetic
limbs, or communication solutions for patients with ALS or Locked-In Syndrome are just a
few examples of how this tech can help with rehabilitation. But, the field of neural interfaces is just
being born. And what we have so far can be sorted into
invasive and non-invasive approaches. One example of an invasive BCI is called Deep
Brain Stimulation, or DBS for short. These are tiny implanted electrodes which
can both send signals and record signals from deep within the brain. There's also what's called electrocorticography,
and those can read signals from the surface of the brain. This is pretty effective, but still requires
cracking open the skull. And unless you suffer debilitating seizures,
you might not be up for that. I think it's sort of the holy grail of this
emerging field to be able to get to all of the information we could get if we drilled
into your brain, without drilling into your brain. The challenge is, non-invasive brain imaging
is super noisy, and only captures signals from outside the skull. That’s like trying to listen to an epic
symphony through a brick wall. Dr. Thomas Reardon and his team have an idea about how to overcome this problem. It starts with re-thinking what the brain
actually is –– and it’s more than just the cortex. It's also the primitive part of the brain, the reptilian part of the brain, the basal
ganglia, and all the way through the brain stem. And most importantly, the spinal cord, that
long, thin extension of the brain that connects the forebrain out to the rest of the body. But you've got neurons all the way down into
the spinal cord, and they work collaboratively, in this unbelievable symphony of neural music,
to get your body to do stuff. And when you form an intention to ‘do stuff,’
your motor neuron cells –– the largest cells in your body –– start to transmit
that signal from your brain to your muscles. When it releases neurotransmitter, the muscle
responds with a little electrical spark. And that causes the muscle to contract. That's the evolved natural output place. We don't have to hack into it, your brain
evolved to output it. And that's the signal that we record. Turns out, recording that signal is actually pretty easy, using a technique called differential
surface EMG, which these neuroscientists and engineers have funneled into a nifty wristband. The bigger challenge is decoding what the
signal means to you. The way those neurons go into your muscle,
what we'll call the motor map, is totally different than me. In fact, it's so different, it's different
than your twin. We have a bunch of deep algorithmic work we've
done to take that electrical signal and map that to the chatter of the neurons in your
spine. It sits here, right above your wrist, which
happens to be the most densely-innervated part of your whole body. And what it's going to start doing is streaming
neural signals to a computer, maybe my phone, which is going to digest those and turn that
into a control signal. So rather than the signal being, "hey, move
my hand," it becomes, "hey, move that cursor." Your typical computer mouse requires you to coordinate fourteen muscles with up to 20,000
neurons. This device just learns to listen to you,
down to the level of a single neuron. And from there, the options are limitless. So, obviously our producer, Anna,  wanted to try this thing out. – So we can look at your raw EMG, which is
also kind of cool. – Cool. – So the band has 16 channels here. So if you just rest, if you just drop your
hand here on the table, your brain is sending no signals to move your hand because you're
resting. If you just slowly bring your wrist up like that, you can see the pattern is that there's
some movement there, and you just slowly extend your wrist even more, and then max it out. You can see that now we're getting a lot more
signal, and so we're activating thousands of motor units. – Wow. This is what’s called the recruitment curve. And this program is learning what Anna’s
looks like as she tries to accomplish a specific task –– in this case, tracing a ball around
a circle. You actually spent the first year of your
life doing all this stuff. We call it motor babbling. Your brain was trying to figure out your body… "If i send this command, oh, I got it, that's
the fingers, got it." What we're trying to do is compress that down
into an hour, or minutes. To then do new things you'd never be able
to do with just your body. Mapping your hand to a virtual hand or a cursor
is just the beginning. With enough Jedi training, you could eventually
play Fortnite with your mind. – All the control schemes that basically humanity
has ever created rely on physical movement. Even voice controls rely on the movement of
my vocal chords. But here, because we can recognize an individual
motor unit that's not sufficient to create physical movement, but is sufficient to act
as a digital button, we can control a digital environment. You can just play the game. This is just one approach to blurring the line between brain and machine. The military is very interested. Some of their ideas are improving the function
of soldiers, allowing them to communicate silently across the battlefield, for example. Other applications, like hacking into a soldier’s
capacity for empathy, or attempting to decode private thoughts, present major ethical questions. So you can imagine these devices in various
ways will change different elements of you, and some will be more core to who you are. Careful thought and regulation will be essential
in ensuring our safety as we merge mind with machine. But one thing’s for sure: that future is
coming. So, how close are we to controlling machines
with our minds? I can imagine that in a decade from now we
have brain-computer interfaces that can help us do really simple tasks in the world, like
turning the lights on and off, or changing the channel on the television. Right now, the technology is absolutely appropriate for people to start developing new things
with. Whether it's how to control a surgical robot
while your hands are doing other things, or you're an astronaut and you need to do high-complexity
things on the space station… it's time to move past the old models, and really open
up new human experiences. For more episodes of “How Close Are We?”,
check out this one here. Don’t forget to subscribe, and come back
to Seeker for more episodes. Thanks for watching.

42 thoughts on “How Close Are We to Controlling Machines With Our Minds?

  1. Hey Seekers! As soon as finish a How Close Are We? script….. WE GET CLOSER! Check out this amazing breakthrough made by a team at Carnegie Mellon University, who figured out how to combine sensing and machine learning techniques to create the first non-invasive mind-controlled robot arm using EEG. What kind of cyborg superpower would you opt for?

  2. Chakra based control system is the true way to go. We are more than just brain matter, skin, and bones.

  3. meh the govt can acces my brain lmao
    what they gonna find? the life of a stoner?? pfft cmooon
    nothing like being able to play minecraft vr with my brain
    hahahah im never ever leaving my house 😂

  4. I heard becoming cybernetic might stunt my evolutionary growth & now I'm just a generic metallic cube! also.. if I'm going to play a game with my mind, I'd play a decent game.

  5. YES, this is neat and all but in my opinion it's just kinda stupid-right now I mean. What we should be focusing on is how to unlock the "Dark spots" in our brains, the unused portions that are just waiting for us to discover em. I understand how this sounds but the unused spots of our brains could be the link we've been looking for that controls "Superpowers"!! Now once we're using more than 10% of our brains I think the computer idea would be awesome!! Think of the possibilities then, world peace, actual space travel, the possibilities would be endless….

  6. SOLE 

    Do you know what is sole?

    Sole is the soft copy backup of all individuals …..Sounds to be crazy …no actually not.

    Let me define

    The day one we born and open our eyes information and videos start uploading to our brains. Through the life we collect trillions of data and out of which all special data and memorable moments are kept stored in our brains.

    So all the data collected by our body sensors are stored in the form of chemical and electrical signals in our brains (like electricity are stored in batteries atom by atom i.e. at particular time dt (delta time) particular atom consist of more charge/less charge like 0 & 1 in binary).

    These stored signals are memories and more the strong signal more will be storage level (like electron with more charges stay in higher orbital than the electron with less charge).

    So all the strong signal lasts for longer period and during the time of death these collection of strong signals/memories remains in brains are if backup in a computer and transferred into another body will actually transfer the sole into another body.

    So Sole is basically the soft copy of strong memories of a particular person.

    Sole can be transmitted in the speed of light and can travel any places in the universe.

    So actually the body is a virtual thing and sole is actual.
    You have a computer and you know it will got damage within couple of days, than what should you do?

    You must backup all the softcopy and transfer it to new computer that is what we call as sole transfer.

    I want to go from one galaxy to another to do some official work and return back, what shall I do?

    I will physically travel with spending lot of fuel and do the job and return back …… it’s a bad idea.

    It’s better to transmit my entire memory at the speed of light to another body (formatted memory) in 2nd galaxy get the entire work done their and return back. This process is sole transfer process.

    It is better to send the sole (Soft copy backup of brain) from one body to other rather than physically travelling.

  7. I hate this idea the government could make all of us obey so easily plus if they wanted to one huge emotionless army.

  8. People want to be more machine, yet try to make machines more like us. At the expense of natural resources, at the cost of natural life that make us a wonder worth appreciating. Why must build to connect ourselves that disconnect us anyway? I am both facinate yet irritatingly sadden at the same time. Our innovation continues to greatly risk our self-preservation. Can you feel or understand what I am pointing out?

  9. Is this real? Has the human race really come this far and become this advanced? Or is this another way for Elon Musk to put himself and his companies in the spotlight

  10. this is all predicted in the bible thousands of years ago
    16 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:
    17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
    Revelations 13:16-17

    No I'm not a hardcore Christian but these prophecies are disturbingly accurate.

    The antichrist will be artificial intelligence coming with the promise of a better future.

  11. The symbiosis of human and artificial intelligence will only delay the onset of AGI supremacy by a few years or maybe seconds. I don't see why would AGI need us anyway after a certain point. We will either go extinct or become obsolete.

  12. I would love to be a candidate for that for my brain when they start doing it can you contact me at Larry price 1961 at thank you very much Larry price

  13. if you need a "guinea pig" to experiment on with this tech message me on youtube i will do it for free and sign over my life

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