Sex on the Mind: Could Brain Holograms Lead to Direct Neural Interfaces?
Cyberpunk visions of human-computer hybrids are seeping out of sci-fi and into reality.
The aim of linking the human mind directly to computers has always been a mainstay of cyberpunk.
Most visions of doing so have been, for lack of a better word, messy, with users depicted with big holes drilled into their heads so they can jack into cyberspace.
Researchers at UC Berkeley’s Adesnik Lab, however, have working on a much less invasive solution—using light.
The science of optogenetics
“We have one laser we use to observe neural activity and we have another laser with holographic patterns to trigger action potential with light,” UC Berkeley researcher Dr. Nicolas Pégard explained to CBS
Technically this is called Optogenetics. Simply put, you begin with a touch of genetic engineering: tagging select neurons in order to make them responsive to a certain frequency of light, which you can then deliver via fiber optics inserted into the brain.
Yet Dr. Pégard and his team have taken the technique in a whole new direction by choosing holograms rather than fiber optics to stimulate brain activity.
‘The Matrix for mice'
Dr. Alan Mardinly, who is also part of the research team, puts a perfect cyberpunk spin on the project:
“We always sort of joke it’s like the Matrix for mice. You close your eyes and what you want is to wake up and fly a helicopter.”
Though they are skeptical about this kind of technology going mainstream anytime soon, the team is also clearly excited by its potential. They envision it being used to give artificial sight to people who visually impaired or create a sense of touch for people using prosthetic limbs.
Limitless erotic possibilities
Meanwhile, the sexual possibilities are practically limitless. Since it as a way to receive sensations from outside of the body, or control some form of external hardware, the method could also be a way for people to receive realistic haptic sensations with artificial sex organs or sex toys such as strap-on dildos.
People who have suffered genital injuries, loss of sensation, or have had gender reassignment surgery, may find such technology particularly appealing.
Looking at the technology as a way to record and playback experiences, it could lead to a total reinvention of adult entertainment. It might also become a powerful therapeutic tool, giving users an opportunity to literally feel what others have experienced during sex.
Even further, a form of this technology could very well bring a bit of cyberpunk to life by giving people a way to plug into cyberspace as well as into other people’s minds.
This way we might be able to share thoughts, emotions, and even memories with our lovers, friends, or strangers: breaking down barriers and bringing everyone closer together.
That being said, here’s to hoping that when this technology does become mainstream we’ll see the birth of in a world full of understanding and empathy—and not a cyberpunk dystopia.
Image sources: dierk schaefer, Nupur Dasgupta