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Three Cheers for Chinese Brain Control! By Uncle Len with No Brain, or Control
One of my as yet unfulfilled ambitions in life is to create super-smart rat cyborgs that can be steered through a maze with the power of human thought. And now, our friendly Chinese overlords, bless them, have done just that, so now I can die in peace:
“I’ll just come right out and say it: Scientists have created human-controlled rat cyborgs. Lest you think this is some media sensationalism at work, here’s the actual title of the paper under discussion, which came out last week in Scientific Reports: “Human Mind Control of Rat Cyborg’s Continuous Locomotion with Wireless Brain-to-Brain Interface.” That pretty much says it all. Some of this tech — such as brain-brain interfaces (BBIs) and rat cyborgs — is nothing new in science, so in a way this just a small step in an already existing race. But, put another way: people are controlling rat cyborgs with their freaking brains now. Wirelessly.
The Main Brain
Here’s the deal. BBIs are themselves based on stringing together BMIs, or brain-machine interfaces. These already exist, and present a cool way for people to control prosthetics or other devices. Apparently they can also function the other way around — instead of a brain controlling a device, a machine can alter brain patterns or “import tactile information back to the brain,” as the study’s authors put it. So BMIs allow for mechanically “controlling” others’ brains. In effect, it works like this: A human has movement-related thoughts, which an EEG picks up and transfers to a computer. The computer translates that signal into “control instructions,” which get wirelessly beamed into the stimulator on the back of the rat and then into its brain via electrodes (which is, by the way, now a rat cyborg because of its cybernetic parts). The rat then responds to the instructions by actually doing them. All this tech exists, but for some reason “very few previous studies have explored BBIs across different brains,” the authors write — so they fixed that with a very real, actual experiment that involved humans wirelessly controlling rat cyborgs through mazes. I can’t stress enough how real this is, or how often the authors used the phrase “rat cyborg” in their peer-reviewed scientific paper.
Testing Rat Cyborgs
The researchers, all from Zhejiang University in China, explain that they wanted a system that worked nearly instantaneously and with high accuracy, due to a living creatures’ “agility and self-consciousness.” And, apparently, that’s what they got. “With this interface, our manipulators were able to mind control a rat cyborg to smoothly complete maze navigation tasks,” the authors write, almost gloating. The human controller was non-invasively hooked into the BBI, where thinking about moving their left or right arms would command the rat to turn in those directions, and blinking corresponded to forward. The study used six rat cyborgs, well-trained and previously prepared for such control. The final part of the system involved a camera showing the rat’s real-time reactions, allowing the human controller to get instant visual feedback. At first the maze was simple, a multi-armed set of tubes that met in the middle, like the spokes of a wheel. The idea was to use it to practice commanding the rat through turns. Then the mazes got more complex, with tight turns, multiple levels and a specific prescribed path. The rat cyborgs handled well, overall, with improved control over time; two of the rats apparently performed flawlessly. (For their parts, the human controllers were subject to fatigue and easily distracted, but over time they improved, too, cultivating what the writers call “a tacit understanding between the human and the rat cyborg.”)
Now should we be worried about this? Of course not, for we all know that technology is the new god, and delivers to us unending joy and goodness; why just look at what nuclear weapons, genetic engineering and even the humble contraceptive pill have done, completely upturning our boring old world, and adding the excitement and diversity that comes from anticipation of annihilation. It is inevitable that humans will have their brains controlled in this way, and we should all be grateful for these advances which are quickly eliminating messy things like free will. Freedom? What is that? Can you program it? No, well it does not exist! That is why Uncle Len has volunteered to be the first human rat, to have his brain, or what remains of it, controlled by kindly technocrats in blood-stained white lab coats. I will be doing it for science, the god of this age. However, after reading this masterpiece about 50 times, it occurred to me that most people are already controlled like these rats anyway, so maybe this is all for nothing.