Johnny Mnemonic and Brain-Computer Interface

When I think of people, one of the many things I think about is a plasma lamp.

You have all of this electricity inside that isn’t going anywhere outside.

When I was a kid, I used to think that if I thought hard enough about moving something with my mind then it would eventually happen with practice. I would focus all of my attention on it for several minutes until I’d give up and play Mario Brothers. What I never thought about as a kid was that I was having so much more success at moving something with my mind when I played video games.

Electricity from my brain made my fingers move. Then after they pressed the buttons on the controller, electricity from the buttons told Mario to  completely miss the pipe I was trying to jump into  and fall to one of his many deaths.

As an adult, I started thinking about how telekinesis should work just like a person’s brain sending signals to muscles with the message to move. It’s so effortless that we often times never think about the initial thought that made our legs to move as we walk to the mailbox.

But our brains have no effect on the world around us unless we physically contact something. I will never be able to make my pictures lift themselves off the walls unless I physically place my hands on them and lift them myself. Even if I was able to focus my mind on them long enough, there is a physical problem with lifting pictures with my mind: I would have to create the same amount of force with microscopic particles in the air that I create when I move my muscles by charging them with electricity from my body. I would focus on the particles first, not the picture on the wall.

Easier said than done. That’s a shit ton of individual particles to focus on just to create enough force for it to move a paperclip.

So I thought about the video game again. The only thing between my body’s electricity and the electricity that controls the game is the insignificant amount of flesh of my fingertips and the plastic of the controller. What if you were able to cut out the middle man?

Brain-computer interface isn’t a new idea. It’s actually been explored for decades. Blind or deaf people could one day see and hear with machines hard-wired into their brains. Even in 1839, Edgar Allan Poe wrote one of the first stories about what we’d now call cyborgs. I think it’s very possible that we may see more and more cyborgs (although I’m sure that term will be considered politically incorrect, and you’ll be called out by several human rights groups for accidentally using it when you’re running for political office). Unlike Robocop and Johnny Mnemonic, I’m sure it will be strictly for medical reasons. Part of me would love to see a post-apocalyptic future where people buy mechanical arms on the black market to increase their ass-whooping, but unfortunately that’s not really the way civilization is headed.

Civilization is headed down a more indifferent, less-physical route.

We already seem to be obsessed with electricity, and maybe that’s because it’s running through us. We feel an identity with it. But we’re also obsessed with bright screens the way moths are obsessed with porch lights. Let’s face it. Going to work every day until the day we retire (or die) is more like indentured servitude than anything else. Those who haven’t figured out how to escape it physically escape it mentally through video games, Facebook, YouTube, television, iPhones, iPads, and other shiny objects. We’re plugging into another world with more freedom. And once again, the real world and the escape world are separated by mere flesh and plastic.

You’d be hard pressed to find someone who would rather levitate objects than live in PS Home. Be anyone. Do anything. And once you can connect your neurons to it so that you can feel all of it, the hours wasted sitting in front of a computer screen will feel like a vacation. But as technology evolves and you receive more upgrades and updates, it will probably become difficult for many people to distinguish between the organic and the inorganic worlds. One day we may even enter into our false world, start a family, and never come back.

It makes you wonder where Adam and Eve really came from.



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