Biomedical engineer, Adam Pantanowitz has achieved a world first, developing technology that connects the human brain to the internet
Not even billionaire Elon Musk has achieved with Neuralink what biomedical engineer Adam Pantanowitz has accomplished with his “Brainternet” project, a world first in connecting the human brain to the internet. Not only that, Pantanowitz and his team of students at the Wits University in Johannesburg South Africa made this technological breakthrough on a small budget.
With technology that anyone can purchase today, Pantanowitz and his team released a video showing how he made his technological breakthrough. Pantanowitz and his team used an Emotiv EEG device and a five dollar Rasberry Pi computer to upload brainwaves to an internet interface that a user can analyze in real time.
“A new frontier in brain-computer interface systems” – Pantanowitz
In a press release on the website MedicalXpress, Pantanowitz explained: “Brainternet is a new frontier in brain-computer interface systems. There is a lack of easily understood data about how a human brain works and processes information. Brainternet seeks to simplify a person’s understanding of their own brain and the brains of others. It does this through continuous monitoring of brain activity as well as enabling some interactivity.“
For some time now, consumers have had access to devices that can read their brainwaves. These devices utilize brainwaves to control things like games, meditation or making music. Some scientists have even used this technology to enable people with disabilities to regain mobility. Bio-hackers are one of the keenest customers of the software, and businesses are also beginning to see the benefits. However, what makes Pantanowitz’s breakthrough so innovative is the connectivity.
Pros and cons of linking the brain to the internet
An apparent benefit for an individual of uploading their brainwaves to an internet interface, of course, would be medical. Additionally, this opens up opportunities researchers to conduct a remote study. However, it is not yet capable of effecting anything, as currently, the brainwave information is merely a live display. But this technology is just in its infancy, and in this day and age, technology evolves at dramatic speeds.
Consequently, some experts are concerned about the potential dangers of people hooking their brains up to the internet. And while some people are excited about humans linking up as part of the “Internet of Things” (IoT), there are others who see this as the beginning of a nightmare. The potential for the realization of this nightmare would be when the brain’s connection to the internet becomes bidirectional.
Could someone hack your brain?
Once the there is a bidirectional flow of information to and from the brain via the internet, humans will open themselves up to the risk of being attacked, hacked or controlled remotely. Already, scientists can scramble neurological activity in patients using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). Indeed, the opportunity for this type of evolving technology to be exploited by rogue governments or corporations is frightening.
Other experts, however, have doubts that the brainternet will ever likely become bidirectional via the internet. Mostly, this is because the brain processes information in a radically different way to a computer. When we upload data uploaded to the internet, a computer converts it into binary form. Binary form is a series of 0s and 1s. The human brain, on the other hand, uses billions of “bioelectrical transmissions“ to process information – much of which is still not understood by neuroscientists.
Nothing to fear?
In other words, engineers and scientists are nowhere near capable of creating a device that can convert the brains bioelectrical transmissions into binary. Additionally, many neuroscientists do not even believe it is within the scope of human understanding, nor will it ever be. According to them, there is really nothing to fear with this technology.