After reading this article on Philip Low’s invention of the iBrain in the New York Times Technology section, I was impressed by how much technology has progressed over time. The iBrain is designed to track regular patterns that a computer device will be able to translate into a word, phrase, or thought a person tries to produce but cannot verbally or physically communicate. Low’s invention is currently being used on Stephen Hawking who has been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease which deteriorates a person’s neurons so muscular movement (including movement of the mouth and facial muscles) becomes close to impossible.

If this device is successful in tracing patterns of thought and translates them appropriately, what does this mean for creative thought which is not always concrete and easily understood by humans themselves? Since this device would condition itself to interpret thoughts of physical action or logical sense, I wonder if it would be able to condition itself to process creative thought. For example, if Stephen Hawking consistently thinks about wanting to make a fist while he is hooked up to the iBrain, the iBrain device will eventually know what action Hawking intends to produce even if he cannot actually produce it himself. But if Hawking were intending to write a poem or a short story and is trying to edit a particular word or line of his piece, could this device determine brainstorming from final thought and properly interpret it? Is there a boundary between technological programs and their ability to interpret and recreate artistic thought?

While I love how science advances the possibility of allowing people to communicate with others despite having ailments such as Lou Gehrig’s disease, I also wonder how much capacity it has for regenerating a person’s true creative thought. I don’t think that programming a device such as an iBrain can replace the creative thought process done naturally by the human brain.

Advertisements