[ExI] hard science

Ben bbenzai at yahoo.com
Sat Mar 8 14:08:33 UTC 2014

William Flynn Wallace <foozler83 at gmail.com> asked:
 > I have to ask this question:  what do you expect a neural interface 
to do?

The literal answer to the question is simple:  Transduce neural signals 
to and from electrical (or possibly optronic) ones, in a reliable 
fashion without any adverse affects on the living tissue or the 
technological components, and without disrupting the normal functions of 
the organic parts.  We're still a long way from that, but progress is 
being made.

But I think your question was more along the lines of:  "What good would 
a neural interface be?", and of course that's an open question, but here 
are a few answers:

A fairly modest application would be to connect specific brain regions 
to external circuitry for control of, for example, prosthetic limbs, 
non-biological organs, new sensory equipment, etc.

Taking the idea further, and once the technology is worked out, you 
could have very fine-grained interfaces that can talk to individual 
neurons and feed the signals into/from detailed virtual-reality models 
of the body or of parts of the body, so that your brain could 'drive' 
the virtual body.  This would be good for full-immersion VR experiences, 
and also for providing a control interface for new bodies.  Bodies which 
could be anything from fully virtual to fully physical, any mix of the 
two, and any mix of biological/technological for the physical side.

This will be difficult to do, and involve massive arrays of interfaces, 
connecting to tens of millions of nerve-endings, but would be 
tremendously useful.  You could, for example, take the central nervous 
system and transplant it into a different body that was a hybrid of 
biological and synthetic parts, and control it through a communications 
grid linked to the interface.  You could then control virtually every 
aspect of such a body (not to mention that the body could be designed 
and built to be vastly better than a standard biological one).  And, 
yes, that's getting a bit off-topic, but you can see the usefulness (or 
rather necessity) of neural interfaces in a scenario like that.

All of the above presupposes that the biological brain will remain as it 
is, producing your mind in the usual way, but there's more:

Taking things further - and later on, I imagine -, neural interfaces 
would be useful in the process of 'gradual uploading', where rather than 
replacing parts of the brain, or 'scanning' it, which are the usual 
uploading ideas, we instead expand the mind into non-biological brain 
machinery over a period of time, so that eventually the original 
biological brain becomes only a small (and ultimately redundant) part of 
what produces the mind.  At some point, you'd be able to ditch the 
original brain without even noticing it.

Lots of assumptions there, but I don't think there's anything that's 
theoretically infeasible.

Ben Zaiboc

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