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Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Monkey-Machine Meld
At the height of the dot.com phenomenon, Red Herring, a new economy business magazine focused primarily on the innovative companies of Silicon Valley, ran a cover story on a group of entrepreneurs developing a truly revolutionary technology. The entrepreneurs and their company had apparently fashioned a technology that allowed humans to transmit messages via their own brainwaves, using nothing more than a small device that captured and transmitted those thought patterns. Amazing, and too good to be true – the Red Herring piece was a…red herring, timed for a public who would be purchasing the magazine and reading it right around April Fool’s Day.

As fantastic as the technology portrayed in the Red Herring spoof was, scientists at Duke University this week edged much closer to making it a reality. There, researchers were able to train rhesus monkeys to use only their thoughts, or brain signals, to control a prosthetic limb otherwise unconnected to them. Implications of the breakthrough are great, particularly for disabled individuals who use prosthetics, suffer from paralysis, or who are otherwise muscularly impaired. Fans of dystopian literature will undoubtedly recognize this rapprochement of man (or, in this case, simian) and machine as one step closer to the genre’s prediction of a near future ripe with cyborgs and human-contraption fusions. Is the next logical step the Gibsonian implants and prosthetic grafts of cyberpunk literature?

See the press release on the Duke research here.

posted by Sarah Roberts @ 3:59 PM

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