Technology and Biology Combined in a Cybernetic Way

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Technology and Biology Combined in a Cybernetic Way

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Today it is more likely than ever that the linking between biology and technology in a cybernetic way which basically means combining humans and machines will eventually happen. So what will the outcome of a this “merge” look like in practice?

A British researcher, Kevin Warwick from Coventry University has explained how this would look in real-life in an article published by Technology Review. Kevin Warwick is deputy vice-chancellor for research at Coventry University and a former professor of cybernetics at Reading University. Initially this project might seem impossible, but Warwick explains how it could potentially look.

“What if the robot has a biological brain made up of brain cells, possibly even human neurons?”, Warwick asks. “Neurons grown under laboratory conditions on an array of non-invasive electrodes provide an attractive alternative with which to realize a new form of robot controller” he says, following up with: “In the near future, we will see thinking robots with brains not very dissimilar to those of humans”.

In practice a project like this would raise social and ethical questions. Imagine the dilemma of a robotic brain having far more human neurons  than a human brain, would it be better equipped to make decisions, and vice versa?

The potential of this human brain-interface is that it can be used for therapeutic purposes, such as medical or neurological problems, Warwick explains. It could potentially relieve Parkinson’s disease, or allowing patients who have suffered from spinal injuries to regain control of devices through neural signals.

Warwick explains that connecting a human brain with a computer network via an implant cloud open up definite advantages of machine intelligence, communication, and sensing abilities. At the present time, getting approval for each implantation requires ethical approval from the local authority responsible for the hospital of the potential patient.

However, Warwick is positive about the future, saying: “Looking ahead, it’s quite possible that commercial influences, coupled with societal wishes to communicate more effectively and perceive the world in a richer form, will drive market desire”.

Some might find the brain-computer interface too “much”, Warwick argues, especially if it  requires tampering with the human brain, which is why today’s most studied brain-computer interface involves electroencephalography (EEG). Today it is difficult to establish its widespread use in the future, but it is definitely essential for medical purposes.

Warwick mentions the example of people driving around while wearing skullcap of electrodes, with no need for a steering wheel, and how such experimental cases indicate how humans can merge with technology.

“That, in turn, generates a plethora of social and ethical considerations as well as technical issues. That’s why it’s vital to include a sense of reflection so that the additional experimentation we’ll now witness will be guided by the informed feedback that results”, Warwick writes.

This article was first published at: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/602830/the-future-of-artificial-intelligence-and-cybernetics/

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