Telekinesis May Be Possible With Brain Implants, Scientists Say

Moving things with our minds is not so far-fetched. For decades we have been able to control robots with our brains. Most commonly, a cap is used to detect brain signals. Those brain signals are then interpreted to control robots. Similarly, brain-implants can give people telekinetic-like powers.

We already have the technology.

Over ten years ago, Andrew Schwarts demonstrated that a monkey can control a robotic arm with its mind. The monkey has brain implants in its motor cortex. The motor cortex controls body movements. The implants detect when the monkey wants to move its arm and then moves the robotic arm.

This technology allows paralyzed people people to feel again.

University of Pittsburgh | UPMC

For example, in 2016, Nathan Copeland received a brain implant to give him a sense of touch. He was in an accident that paralyzed him from the neck down. A Brain Computer Interface (BCI) now allows him to move a robotic arm. More amazingly, the BCI even lets him feel what the robot feels.

There are some limits to our powers.

Don't expect brain implants to allow you to lift an object unaided like Professor X. Bradley Voytek, a cognitive scientist at UC San Diego, told Gizmodo:

"Some of us can’t rub our bellies while patting our heads! So it’s a bit presumptuous to think we’ll be able to use our fancy future brain implants to chop vegetables in the kitchen while also pouring a drink and writing a note all at the same time."

There are also technological limitations to what we can do with the brain.

Flickr | NIH

Theoretically, we could add a bunch of brain implants to control a growing list of things. Granted, we would limited by our attention, but also the computer's ability to sense our thoughts. As Voytek pointed out, our minds are super noisy places full of electrical impulses and stray thoughts. It is hard for a computer to decipher what we are thinking about. The more signals a computer tries to detect, the more noise it encounters.

Science fiction is closer than we think.

Andrea Stocco, a Psychology Professor at the Institute for Learning and Brain Science, nicely sums it up:

"[T]elekinesis might sound like magic, but, as Arthur Clarke once said, 'Every sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.'"

h/t: Gizmodo