November 29, 2022

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The human-machine hybrid is getting closer and closer

Is human-machine hybrid ever closer? Given the huge leaps in technology and the huge increase in knowledge in this sector, perhaps in the not-too-distant future we will be able to receive artificial neuronal grafts to replace those defective due to aging or a neurodegenerative disease: a small neural network function already exists, but we are still in the early stages One of the applications of so-called neuroengineering, the science that seeks to create synthetic structures that behave like neurons.

Hands free games. However, we can bet that in the next few years there will be some good things, if only because a visionary like Elon Musk with his Neuralink has long entered the sector: in this case, however, it is not about creating Artificial neurons are as similar as possible to human cells, but to graft computerized devices into the skull capable of detecting, amplifying, processing and above all stimulating the electrical signals of the brain, for example to ensure that paraplegics or quadriplegics can move again.

Elon Musk’s electrode chip, about the size of a coin, is also intended to become a true interface between the brain and machines to allow us to control it with our thoughts: A year ago, the monkey pager caused quite a stir. Who, thanks to the Neuralink device, played a video game Pong without touching the joystick, moving it with his mind. It must be said that 15 of the 23 monkeys implanted with the devices in the first tests are dead, so it won’t be easy to find volunteers for the human trials the entrepreneur says he wants to start within the next year.

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Spinal cord injuries. However, Musk is not the only one who cherishes the dream of restoring the motor skills of people paralyzed as a result of trauma through nerve stimulators implanted in the nervous system: a few weeks ago, Gregoire Courtine and Jocelyn Bloch of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland, they told on the pages of nature medicine Successes achieved in three patients with spinal cord injuries in the thoracic region.

The volunteers, who had been paralyzed for years, were vaccinated with a device capable of stimulating the spinal cord in a slightly different and more selective way than other previous attempts; An artificial intelligence algorithm, designed to anatomy of each patient and run via a tablet, then “routes” the stimulation of the nerves that control the leg muscles so that they are activated in the correct sequence for each movement.

Walk again. “Once the neurostimulator was implanted, the volunteers were immediately able to take their first steps; Within six months they were able to walk, bike and swim, albeit not with completely natural movements. However, the more you train the muscles, the more flexible the gestures,” says Bloch, specifying that the goal now is to confirm the results – obtained in a few cases – in a trial of a hundred people leaving within a year.

But if today it is believed that a human-computer hybrid is a solution to help those who have lost their jobs, then the secret dream remains to “increase” human skills and turn us into cyborgs: according to some, humans will evolve precisely into beings powered by technology and artificial intelligence, and someone has tried it What is already on his skin, even if it is always motivated in the moment by the need to conquer a problem.

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Like Superman? This is the case of Neil Harbison, an artist known as the first cyborg recognized by law and an activist for the rights of human-machine hybrids. Cyborg Foundation: Born with color blindness, a disease that prevents you from perceiving colors, Neil, just over 20, invented a type of antenna, called an eyeborg, capable of converting colors into sounds through software that links light waves with sounds. The device was permanently attached to his brain and in 2014, the UK renewed his passport and recognized his “branch” as part of it, officially recognizing him as a cyborg.

He’s not the only one: Documentary director Rob Spence was the first to replace an eye lost in an accident with a special camera attached to the brain, and Peter Scott Morgan, a robotics expert who suffers from the same neurodegenerative disease as Stephen Hawking, has tried to go a little further by undergoing repeated interventions to manage Restrictions caused by disease thanks to technology, trying to become Peter 2.0From the title of the book he wrote to document his path.

“Reinforced” men. Scott Morgan died in June 2022, but the dream of augmenting human capabilities continues to transform transgender people even among those who don’t have to deal with job losses due to illness or trauma: Musk, for example, doesn’t hide it with his chip’s desire to let us not only control In the smartphone with our thoughts, if we can not do it with our fingers due to paralysis, but also to interact faster and deeply with the web and any computer, to become truly “augmented” and always connect men to the network.

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decoration? Perhaps, but the microchip capable of improving and expanding human memory, as if upgrading a computer’s hard drive, also works on DarpaDepartment of Defense Advanced Research, with tens of millions of dollars in funding. They invented the internet, who knows if the next cyborg wasn’t born in their labs.