Humans that fuse with machines will become telekinetic. They will be able to be in two places at once. They will be able to “feel” physical objects that are half a world away. They will have thousands of times the strength of purely organic humans. They will not be limited to one physical manifestation of their existence. They will have powers usually reserved for mythological superheroes. What will they do with them?
If you think these statements sound like prep work for a sci-fi novel, think again. They are concepts I’m going to discuss with Dustin Tyler, the director of the Functional Neural Interface Lab and the Human Fusions Initiative at Case Western Reserve University on Jan. 28 when I host “NeuroReality™: The Future of Telepresence.”
Tyler’s biomedical engineering remit includes neuromimetic neuroprosthesis, laryngeal neuroprosthesis, clinical implementation of nerve electrodes, cortical neuroprosthesis, minimally invasive implantation techniques, modeling of neural stimulation and neuroprosthesis.
The purpose of these research initiatives is to improve human neurologic health and function through the integration of engineered devices into living systems with the overarching goal of advancing the field of neural engineering.
This team studies clinical implementations of neural prosthesis systems, which include sensation and human-in-the-loop control for amputees, neuro-inspired stimulation paradigms, spinal cord stimulation for pain management and peripheral nerve electrodes to restore function following spinal cord injury. This team also researches advanced devices to improve the extraction of information from and activation of the human nervous system. And this team develops and researches neuromimetic interfaces between neural tissue and engineered devices.
Applications for the interfaces being developed at the Human Fusions Initiative go far beyond prosthetics. The educational, industrial, retail, military and purely personal uses for human/machine interfaces are practically unlimited. But they come with some very big questions: What is reality? What are “We,” “I,” and the extent of “Self?” What is the future of human/machine relationships? What are the opportunities? What are the risks? What are the threats?
Just a few years ago, a discussion like this would be so hypothetical, it would be valueless for any but the most intellectually curious. Today, these questions need our attention as we attempt to create a framework for the application of biomedically engineered human/machine interface technologies in the real world.
How do we separate the parlor tricks from the paradigm shift? What are the real world use cases that should be developed first? What are the security and privacy risks? What happens when you incorporate 5G (low latency, high bandwidth) networks? Ultra-wideband (UWB) technology? WiFi6E? How much embedded computing will take place at the edge? How much in the cloud? What happens when your human/machine interface gets hacked? Does mind control work in reverse?
The FAA just approved autonomous commercial drone flights under 400 feet in altitude. Will we control them with our minds? Can this technology improve productivity? Do highly trained human/machine partners become truly superhuman? What are the ethical implications? What are the economic implications? The list of questions is vast.
The goal of “NeuroReality™: The Future of Telepresence” is to introduce you to a field of applied research and engineering that has practical implications. This tech is real, and we need to be thinking about it now. Can you use fused humans to drive growth in your business? Can you use human/machine partners to increase productivity? Can you create new products with them? What problems do humans fused with machines solve, and what problems do they create?
Join me on Jan. 28 for a deep dive into the state of human/machine fusion and biomedical engineering here.