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The marriage of brain and machine: past , present, future*

1924
EEG

Via electrodes on the scalp, electroencephalography records electrical waves emitted by the brain, opening a window on neural activity.

1952
ELECTRICAL STIMULATION

Electrodes used on epilepsy patients stimulate parts of the brain, which helps neurologists map the brain and decipher its functions.

1964
BULL SHOCK

After implanting electrodes in the brain of a bull, neurologist José Delgado faces the charging animal in a ring and, just before being gored, administers a shock, stopping the bull in its tracks.

1972
BIONIC EAR

A single-channel cochlear implant hits the market. Plugged into nerves in the inner ear, it converts sound into electrical impulses,
enabling many deaf people to hear.

2006
MIND CONTROL

High-powered brain sensors allow a paralyzed patient to use a prosthetic arm and also move a computer cursor with only his
thoughts.

2008
MONKEY AVATAR

In North Carolina, the brain activity of a monkey with electrodes in its motor and sensory cortex is converted into remote signals that control the walking of a robot in Japan.

2011
BLIND SIGHT

A Southern California–based company gets the green light in Europe to sell a retinal implant that partially restores lost vision to blind patients.

2012
WI-FI PROSTHETICS

Rechargeable micro-implants in the brain allow severely disabled people to operate prosthetics and communicate simple commands
by thinking.

2020
INNER VOICE

A device codeveloped by UCSF’s Edward Chang lets paralyzed, “locked-in” users speak through a voice synthesizer.

2021
IRON MAN

A wearable robot, or full-body exoskeleton operable by brain activity, allows disabled patients to be mobile. (Robert Downey Jr.
not included.)

2025
PORTABLE EEG

A wearable eeg device, which samples and analyzes brain activity, enables the direct manipulation of simple remote devices and computer applications, including texting.

2030
BRAIN DUST

Microscopic sensors distributed throughout the brain allow disabled people to control prosthetics— and all of us to plug virtual entertainment directly into our brains.

2034
BIONIC EYES

Networkable, synthetic eyes that switch to infrared, X-ray, or telescopic vision let users share what they’re seeing with other
users.

2036
NANOBOTS

Nanobot avatars, which send signals to microscopic brain sensors,
enable us to experience deep seas, outer space, the human body, or wherever else nanobots roam.

2045
TELEPATHY CHIP

Brain-implant microchips permit mindto-mind communication between implantees.

2065
DOWNLOADABLE YOU

Download your digitally converted brain for storage, to create a
cognitive twin, or, when your physical body dies, to resurrect yourself!

3000
CYBERHUMAN ONENESS

Boundaries between humans and machines have vanished, resulting in a new species of networked human with one fully integrated, boundless mind.

* sources for this story want to make it clear that the wild prognostication from 2021 onward is just that.

 

Additional stories:

Thinking makes it go

Hollywood got there first