The Future of the Mind
In March 2014, leading theoretical scientist Michio Kaku gave a lecture to employees of US tech giant Microsoft, discussing the potential of new technologies to transform our understanding of the human mind.
Kaku, whose latest book is called The Future of the Mind, highlighted the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (Brain) initiative – a decade-long $1bn research programme designed to “produce dynamic pictures of the brain” – which he claims will boost the development of mind-control technologies.
Research into brain-machine interfaces is “one of the hottest fields now” in neurology, according to Kaku. He cites theoretical physicist Steven Hawking’s use of intuitive technology as an example. Hawking suffers from motor neurone disease, which has left him almost completely paralysed. He uses a glasses-mounted neurosensor that responds to brainwaves and movements in his cheek muscle to help him communicate. Kaku suggested that this kind of mind-control technology is one of the first steps in controlling computers, cars and even avatars or “surrogate” robots with our minds.
The potential is also growing for technology to mimic mental processes such as recording and storing memories. Last year, scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US successfully uploaded a memory into the brain of a mouse for the first time.
“Very soon, we will start to do this with primates, and then after that, Alzheimer’s patients. The short-term goal of this is to create a brain pacemaker,” Kaku said – a brain prosthetic that could store personal memories such as knowledge of friends and family.
In his wide-ranging talk, Kaku also explored groundbreaking research that is paving the way for scientists to successfully record dreams, visualise mental illness and falsify memories. This could have huge implications for many industries, he argued. “Students could learn calculus just by pushing a button,” he explained. “Workers will be able to learn new skills as technology progresses, by uploading the memories necessary to master a new technological skill.”
For a glimpse into what the future might look like when man and machine melt into one, take a look at our Macro Trend, Agile Futures.