It seems the frontier to be explored the most this century has not been the deepest reaches of space, as much fiction written in the past hundred years would have predicted, but rather using technology to explore the inner workings of the mind. This year alone several machines have come out that translate thought into electronic impulses, and it appears now another machine has been created, one that will allow speech to be transmitted by thought alone to computers.
The experimental machine, researched by scientists at the Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation, is said to be made for stroke victims who have lost their ability to communicate verbally, but still have the ability to put their thoughts into words. It works essentially by placing electrodes into the speech centers of the brain and then translating the electrical impulses received by the electrodes into FM radio signals as they are sent into a small device. The device can then communicate with another device which interprets the radio signals and then sends them back to a machine that does the speaking. The variations of the machine itself are virtually unlimited once thought and speech are interpreted in real time.
But the tripping of the brain electron barrier seems to be another step toward total mind reading and alteration by “they who hold the machines.” The invasion of peoples’ thoughts appears to be fast approaching as a major controversy about to take up massive amounts of airtime on television, and it seems soon it will come to the question if this should join cloning as a “forbidden technology.” Of course to throw it out altogether in the end would not only waste hundreds of thousands of man hours worldwide, it would also be closing the door on several people who wish merely to be heard. If a key is created to unlock the thoughts of the willing, it must be established that in addition to freedom of speech, each human has the right to freedom of silence lest telepathic interrogation become the next wave of the future.
Of course the interrogation applications are still years away. As it stands the real-time thought to speech translation takes less than a fraction of a second, and subjects could in time be trained to speak faster than a human being is capable, making conversations eventually possible in less than seconds as information travels at the speed of thought rather than the hesitant limitations verbal communication. And the controls of a computer could be accessed at far greater speeds by one’s cognitive functioning than even the fastest typing hands making it likely that complex computer manipulation, such as those involved in piloting may be more dependent on technology similar to this than hand driven controls.
Neural prosthesis, I must reiterate, appears to be the next step in prosthetic technology, and it is opening doors for coma patients as well who simply are not connected to their bodies. A computer could allow a comatose patients to live within a cybernetic body or interact via the internet. Imagine the wealth of knowledge that would have been lost had Stephen Hawking not been allowed a voice in the world. Imagine what mental resources await us as technology unlocks more and more people who we once thought were lost.