Imagine that a soldier has a tiny computer device injected into their bloodstream that can be guided with a magnet to specific regions of their brain. With training, the soldier could then control weapon systems thousands of miles away using their thoughts alone. Embedding a similar type of computer in a soldier’s brain could suppress their fear and anxiety, allowing them to carry out combat missions more efficiently. Going one step further, a device equipped with an artificial intelligence system could directly control a soldier’s behavior by predicting what options they would choose in their current situation.
While these examples may sound like science fiction, the science to develop neurotechnologies like these is already in development. Brain-computer interfaces, or BCI, are technologies that decode and transmit brain signals to an external device to carry out a desired action. Basically, a user would only need to think about what they want to do, and a computer would do it for them.
BCIs are currently being tested in people with severe neuromuscular disorders to help them recover everyday functions like communication and mobility. For example, patients can turn on a light switch by visualizing the action and having a BCI decode their brain signals and transmit it to the switch. Likewise, patients can focus on specific letters, words or phrases on a computer screen that a BCI can move a cursor to select.