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Rediff.com  » Business » Soon, your thoughts may speak

Soon, your thoughts may speak

By Shivani Shinde in Mumbai
February 06, 2007 03:11 IST
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Communicating by thought is what Prof Kevin Warwick, a cybernetics expert at the University of Reading in the UK, wants to do in a few year's time.

With two neural implants in the last seven to eight years, his work in artificial intelligence control, robotics and bio-medical engineering field has not been without controversy and may well force us to revisit the way humans function. Warwick was in India at the recently-concluded Techfest 2007, an annual technology festival held by IIT Mumbai.

He has proved humans can have extra sensory inputs -- that their brain can directly communicate. After his first successful implant, a similar chip was implanted in his wife, Irena. This allowed the investigation of how movement, thought or emotion signals could be transmitted from one person to the other, possibly via the Internet.

"Most importantly, the human nervous system can now be extended wherever we want to, not only using the Internet but also via a satellite connection," says Warwick.

With the success of these experiments he will, in a few years time, implant a chip in his brain to experiment communication by thought (it's called telepathy – the way Mandrake the Magician communicates with his master, Theron).

A staunch believer in human cyborgs, he feels they will be a reality soon. He kind of proved this theory when a few years back sitting in the US he moved his robotic hand, 5,000 km away in the UK.

"We linked my nervous system in US to my robotic hand in UK. When I moved my hand - my nuero systems / brain signals were transmitted by the Internet connection to my robotic hand in UK. Similarly when the robotic hand gripped an object, the sense from the fingertips was sent to my brain through the Internet to stimulate my nervous system in US," he says.

The professor feels the use of chips among patients can do wonders but he also believes the usage should not be restricted to therapeutic use only. These chips are already being used to treat Parkinson successfully.

However, passionate and convinced he might be of a robotic future, he is equally aware of the concerns being raised.

For instance, when it comes to using chips among the humans he says, "Even if somebody is seriously ill should we go ahead using their brain, it could go the wrong way. I think you do have to respect individual belief and take it steadily and move on to a more respectable, and ethical way. Because we need people consensus on this and see that it does not go in a wrong hand. I think it has to go not too quickly or we might create a monster."

Similarly, with the ability to connect our nervous systems to computers or another system through Internet raises some serious security issues.

He opines, "One thing going for us is that human brain is good enough to ignore signals on the nervous system that it is not interested in it. But nevertheless it does open up the whole issue of people hacking in or virus attacks and there are all sorts of negatives. But it simply means that security has to be in much higher and priority basis."
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Shivani Shinde in Mumbai
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