Have you watched the movie Robocop? It’s about a half-machine half-police man enforcing the law. He was built via the implantation of artificial limbs in his body controlled by his brain. Other examples of this technology include Dr. Octopus in the movie “Spiderman”. There is also “Iron Man”, “Edge of Tomorrow”, and “The Matrix”. These movies clearly explain (motion pictures) how humans can make use of artificial exoskeleton basically controlled by the brain.
This technology is called a brain-computer interface (BCI). Its also called other names including a direct neural interface (DNI), mind-machine interface (MNI), etc. It is a pathway of direct communication between the human brain (slightly enhanced) and external devices. In a dummy’s explanation, it is that technology that is connected to and controlled with your brain.
BCI technology started with Hans Berger’s discovery of what is called Electroencephalography often called EEG in 1924. EEG is all about the recording of the human brain activities. Further research was done by other scientists with a focus on brain potential and control directly connected with the EEG discovery which has now transformed into BCI. Imagine the possibility of the ability to control computer functions or machines with your brain.
Now the simple concept of BCI and why it works is because of how our brains are wired. The human brain is filled with neurons and nerve cells connected to each other via dendrites. So whenever an action is performed like walking, talking, remembering, it means the neurons in the brain are working. They are small signals, electric signals, that move from neuron to neuron. All these signals are usually backed by ions in each neuron.
Over the years, scientists have done a series of research to be able to identify these signals and interpret their functions. Afterward, these signals can be directed to an external device. However, this technology is far from being perfect as there is still a serious challenge in the mechanics of the interface and how to ensure its safety for application towards humans. Though it has already been tested successfully on rats.
How Nigerian entrepreneurs can key into this technology
It is no doubt that Nigeria has fallen off the tracks when it comes to economic advancements and wealth resource management (crude oil). However, just like every “age”, we are at the doorstep to the technological age where everyone has a chance to dominate. Build the right technology and you are a winner. Thank goodness for Data Science Nigeria (DSN) and the Artificial Intelligence Hub in Lagos. This means we are on the right track to breeding the next generation of data scientists and AI experts.
Our entrepreneurs have failed to take advantage of the smartphone emergence (China did) but we can take advantage of the distant future – BCI. The immediate future of smartphones is holograms and VR. Our entrepreneurs (tech founders/scientists) aren’t ready for these yet. But with proper funding and commitment, we can be ready for BCI.
When the time comes, Nigeria can successfully turn the table from being a developing nation to a developed nation by planning towards a distant future tech. I see a future in this path as a moment of rebirth for Nigeria.