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I’ve been reading a book called The Singularity Is Near by futurist Ray Kurzweil (author of The Age of Spiritual Machines). Kurzweil has been called “the ultimate thinking machine” by Forbes and the “rightful heir to Thomas Edison” by Inc. Magazine. Kurzweil uses his Law of Accelerating Returns to make predictions about the future course of humanity and its interactions with computers.

Kurzweil is an optimist, envisioning a future that is full of promise and marvelous cures for diabetes, cancer, and even human hunger. Yes, he’s that optimistic. Something I found amazing was this section on Interfacing the Brain and Machines:

“Migusel Nicolelis and his colleagues at Duke University implanted sensors in the brains of monkeys, enabling the animals to control a robot through thought alone. The first step in the experiment involved teaching the monkeys to control a cursor on a screen with a joystick. The scientists collected a pattern of signals from EEGs (brain sensors) and subsequently caused the cursor to respond to the appropriate patterns rather than physical movements of the joystick. The monkeys quickly learned that the joystick was no longer operative and that they could control the cursor just by thinking. This “thought detection” system was then hooked up to a robot, and the monkeys were able to learn how to control the robot’s movements with their thoughts alone. By getting visual feedback on the robot’s performance, the monkeys were able to perfect their thought control over the robot. The goal of this research is to provide a similar system for paralyzed humans that will enable them to control their limbs and environments.”

Kurzweil has opened my eyes to a variety of studies on the brain which I had no idea they were even doing.  A preview of The Singularity Is Near can be read on Google Books.

The book is being adapated for the screen, and will hit the silver screens in September 2009.

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