Small, surgically implanted BCIs have already proven capable of facilitating operation of robotic prosthetics or external computers by individuals with paralysis or amputations and externally mounted BCIs allow completely locked-in patients to answer yes or no questions.
As of now, though, the technology is limited to interpreting brain signals that either come from one part of the brain, like the motor cortex, or are completely unambiguous, like the differences in brain activation when thinking “yes” vs “no”.
BCIs that can translate the pattern of neuron firings required to compose poetry in French are thus quite far off, but considering the progress made in the nascent field’s 20-year history, Pearson’s predictions may be reasonable. Plus, the US government, Facebook, and – sorry Pearson – everyone’s favorite futurologist, Elon Musk, are all funding new BCI development.
Of course, the technology behind the physical functionality of the androids will be old hat by 2050, thanks to the current push for realistic robots made by the sex doll industry.
Into the Matrix
Eventually, Pearson surmises that humanity will have the opportunity to eschew a physical form altogether and choose to live in a simulated world. Outside of sci-fi movie plots, this concept has actually been around for some time among followers of the Transhumanist movement. In a 2011 video, Pearson conceded that though his ideas might seem outlandish, they are merely projections of what will be possible given our current rate of innovation.
“The reason I don’t normally talk about 50 years hence is because when you go out that out you’re talking about immortality technology and stuff that you really associate with something beyond the other side of star trek…That’s how fast things are moving. And people then just think you’re being wacky, but really, in a 50-year timeline you can put an end to death, you can download your entire mind onto a computer and store it forever.”
On top of the humongous pile of ethical and existential questions these projections bring up, we add one more to the pile. After biological death has been solved, what do we do about the solar flare that will inevitably cause all the servers storing our consciousnesses to short circuit?