“When will we be able to jack our brain into the Matrix, to experience a virtual reality indistinguishable from reality?” is a question I get asked a lot.
I think a lot about the answer. To be honest, I don’t think it will happen in my lifetime, but that’s OK since something even more futuristic sounding is likely to happen instead.
The human brain is an incredibly complex system even the most advanced neuroscientists haven’t come close to fully understanding it. Feeding a virtual reality into your brain that feels real requires us to completely understand the entire language the brain operates with.
Just as we have deciphered ancient languages by studying the limited pieces of evidence we have left of them, eventually we’ll get there, but not any time soon. So the notion of feeding a computer signal directly into your brain in order to replace your reality truly is science fiction for now.
What is our reality exactly?
Your reality as a human is entirely constructed upon the data that your input devices receive.
Your eyes are sensors that translate what you see into electrical impulses and feed those into your brain. Your ears are sensors that translate sonic waves into electrical impulses and feed those into your brain.
In a way then, we already have sensors plugged directly into our brain.
So perhaps, Instead of attempting to reverse engineer the complex inner workings of the brain, we need only decipher the much simpler data feeding into it from our senses.
Last year we had the first successful bionic eye implant (it’s still very crude — the patient can only see edges & rough shapes). Nonetheless, it proves that we can replace our organic sensors with electronic substitutes. And like every single electronic device on the planet, it will get better, smaller and faster over time. So, it’s entirely plausible to think that many years from now we might have bionic eye implants that surpass their organic counterparts.
Which brings us to a very interesting proposal : if you could have your eyes removed and replaced with Bionic eyes that give you perfect vision, night vision mode and a zoom function, would you do it?
If you could replace your ears with microphones that have increased range, perfect pitch, and a much wider frequency range, would you do it?
If you could replace your nose with a sensor that gives you bloodhound levels of smell, would you do it?
And if you did it, how would that change you as a human? Your entire reality is based on the collective data gathered from your sensors. What happens if these sensors suddenly are able to detect a wider range of data? What effect would that have to your brain? What effect would that have on you, as a person? Are you still human? Are you superhuman?
I think, long before we plug computers directly into our brain, we will replace our limited organic sensors for better electronic ones. Long before we “plug into the matrix” we will become cyborgs. And experiencing a virtual reality that’s indistinguishable from reality is pretty easy….for a cyborg.
In the next 100 year, we humans are close to leaving the organic era behind us and by doing so unlock a future so unimaginable: it’s thrilling and scary at the same time.
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