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Brain chips to increase intellectual capabilities, control machines using thought alone, or transfer information directly into the brain are quite popular in sci-fi and have been recently adopted as concrete research goals by many science and engineering teams around the world. Currently developed prototypes adopt a "black box" model - they do not allow the user to experience what is going on inside the implant. Our brain, on the contrary, is open to us - it doesn't only process sensory input and calculate appropriate behaviors based on it, but also enables us to experience what is happening. In other words, brain activity is accompanied by consciousness.
Potentially, brain chips can also be designed to have consciousness inside them. Inserted into a human brain, such a conscious implant would expand the user's conscious experience with its own contents. For this, however, a new kind of brain-machine interface should be developed that would merge consciousness in two separate systems - the chip and the brain - into single, unified one.
Many technologies could be applied in this direction, for example the genetic engineering of special neurons designed to interface between ordinary neurons and electronic devices. Progress in conscious interfaces could eventually allow us to unify consciousness of different human beings, leading to the emergence of special kind of global brain, in which every individual will experience itself being a GB, and won't become just one of the cogs in this huge super-intelligent system.
Alexandra Elbakyan is a neurotechnology researcher and advocate, and a software developer.
Alexandra holds a BS in CS from Kazakh National Technical University in Almaty, Kazakhstan, specializing in information security. During the last year of her study, she worked on a security system that would recognize individuals by their brainwaves. After obtaining her BS she worked for a while with the Human Media Interaction Group at the University of Twente on the mind-controlled game Bacteria Hunt. Later she joined the Human Higher Nervous Activity Lab dedicated to the study of consciousness. Currently she is working in The Brain Machine Interfacing Initiative at Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg on the development of ECoG-based hand prostheses.
She is avidly pursuing the project of creating a brain implant that would expand the consciousness of its bearer. Read more about this in Consciousness in mixed systems: merging artificial and biological minds via Brain-Machine Interface. This is a very multi-disciplinary effort... so if you're interested in neurobiology of consciousness, neurotechnology, neuroengineering, genetic engineering, brain-machine interfaces, machine consciousness and want to contribute — contact Alexandra!
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