Miguel Nicolelis

1961 - present


The brain is the differentiator of humans from all other species. Yet there is still much we do not know about it. Speculation in the book envisions the possibility of silent communication between future humans via "brain wave" detectors in a manner analogous to the way in which an electroencephalogram (EEG) today can detect electrical signals in a brain. Could such a biological detector ever evolve? Could an artificial one be somehow embedded in future humans? Could the receipt of such a signal be interpretable by another brain? All speculation of course. However, we have evolved other biological sensors equally complicated such as the retina for electromagnetic wave detection, the cochlea for sound wave detection and the olfactory system for chemical substance detection. Further, our brain has a magnificent capability to recognize patterns in signals so receivedfar better than any artificial detection systems we have developed.

Miguel Nicolelis is providing us with a proof of concept of this speculation. He has attached electrodes into the brains of monkeys and has shown that a monkey is capable of manipulating a distant robotic arm based on signals received from these electrodes. More amazing, he has networked multiple monkeys with such attached electrodes so that they could receive the signals from each other. Monkeys using these so-called "Brainets" are able to cooperate in certain tasks leading to food rewards better than monkeys not so attached!

Equally amazing are experiments in humans to demonstrate what are called brain-to-brain interfaces (BBI). In one such experiment, signals detected in an EEG of one individual are transmitted to a computer. The computer signal is communicated to a remote computer location where this second computer is attached to a signal generator, called a Transcranial Magnetic Stimulator, attached to the skull of a second individual. The second individual was able to understand certain limited communications from the first individual in this manner!

One of the speculations regarding the possible future singularity envisions an artificial superintelligence consisting of networked humans and computers through the Internet creating a so-called "Global Brain." Are Dr. Nicolelis' monkeys and BBI also proof of concept for this?

Click on links to other players in my journey below.