Thought experiments | The Economist

February 24, 2018

Thought experiments Amazing progress in Brain-computer interfaces (#BCIs): paralyzed patients manipulating silverware. Communicating w/ “locked-in” individuals. Will this scale?

Brain-computer interfaces sound like the stuff of science fiction. Andrew Palmer sorts the reality
from the hype

IN THE gleaming facilities of the Wyss Centre for Bio and
Neuroengineering in Geneva, a lab technician takes a well plate out of an incubator. Each well contains a tiny piece of brain tissue derived from human stem cells and sitting on top of an array of electrodes. …
To see these signals emanating from disembodied tissue is weird. The firing of a neuron is the basic building block of intelligence. ..

This symphony of signals is bewilderingly complex. There are as many as 85bn neurons in an adult human brain, and a typical neuron has 10,000 connections to other such cells. The job of mapping these connections is still in its early stages. But as the brain gives up its secrets, remarkable possibilities have opened up: of decoding neural activity and using that code to control external devices.