Will the Brain Computer Interface technology help to bridge the gap between humans and animals?

Now imagine this, we’re on our way to transcending the language barrier, with the Brain dogComputer Interface, for human to human communication, where direct and immediate interpretation or translation will be possible with the appropriate software. Imagine, if you can start understanding, what your dog, your cat or your hamster is thinking? And then now think, if we figure a way, to relay our thoughts or intended messages, to your pets or other animals, in a way, they can understand? Going to the zoo will become a very different experience from what it is today.

Evolution of the Brain Computer Interface Technology

The primary purpose and function of the Brain Computer Interface technology in development today, to be the standard input, interaction or interface means for all computing and communication devices in less than two decades from now, is to enable the user to use thought, the signal of which is detected and interpreted, to instruct a computer, any other machine or software, to perform its respective function as the user requires or desires. Past to present trends pertaining to technology is that over time they improve and evolve, along with their purposes and functions. We cannot expect the Brain Computer Interface to be an exception.

The Possibilities with Brain Computer Interface Technology

While the purpose of the Brain Computer Interface is to instruct machines or programmes, the fact that it works by detecting and interpreting, then translating, thought signals, leaves room for more. Not only can the Brain Computer Interface allow the user to communicate instructions touch and speech free to technology, but also to receive communication back right to the brain, most likely for now, in the form of sound directly to the skull, bypassing the ear drum.

How Communication would work with the Brain Computer Interface

The fact that two-way communication is essential, where there must be input to technology and output from it, and that the Brain Computer Interface would enable this, to be purposeful, means we’ll be communicating human-to-human, whether across a room, or the globe, through thought using the new interface technology. How this can work, is that my thought is input into a device, where it is translated, converted into the sound of a voice and then relayed to brain of the intended recipient. After which, I would receive a response by the same means. Without microphones or ear-plugs, we communicate bypassing voice boxes and ear drums, where we may not even speak the same language. A thought, is translated into the language of preference of the recipient.

Applying the Brain Computer Interface Technology to Communicate with Animals

When language, voice and ear drums are no bar, nor too technical competency or literacy, in communication, barriers to communication, indeed virtually disappear. Now thus far, that is a discussion or impending reality between humans. Thus far, the Brain Computer Interface, is about communication involving the human brain with technology. Humans are not the only one’s with brains though. Apart from Micro-organisms, certain groups of marine animals and other rare creatures we do not often consider, most animals we can think of around us or that we see at the zoo, have a brain or some form of a neuro-system that allows for thought or cognition.

Where technology is in hand that can pick-up and decipher brainwaves or brain signals, to read thoughts, and those brainwaves or brain signals also probably exist in animals, though perhaps operating in different ways or at different frequencies, it is a matter of time, that the the same type of thought reading used for human interaction with technology can, and will, be adjusted to identify, decipher and read animal thought.

The necessity to Forecast Human-to-Animal Communication through the Brain Computer Interface

This is a admittedly, not a possibility within reach any time soon, as the Brain Computer Interface technology is, as far as common or public knowledge is concerned, being exclusively worked on where the human brain is concerned only. Extensive work will have to be done to identify and decipher brainwaves of any animal, to create a system that fulfils the same function with it’s brain, as the system currently being evolved for humans is intended to fulfil. A timeline here is therefore not possible. That the technological progress to enable humans to read animal minds and to communicate back to them will happen, is a definite eventuality, because of both scientific feasibility given what is already known and the human interest to understand other living beings that share our planet. And because it is an eventuality, it is valuable to forecast a scenario, where the technology becomes and actual reality.

Conversations with Animals: What would they be like?

Imagine what could happen if we could use such technology to converse with animals, as we converse with each other in the present day. What would the subjects be? Perhaps spirituality, where we ask animals if they understand the concept of life and death, and if so, what it means to them? Do different animals believe in an afterlife? Do they believe in a heaven or a hell? Do they believe in karma or a greater entity? Do they worship in their own way?

Imagine if you could have a conversation with a lion. For example, you think the question,lion “How are you feeling today?”, which gets converted into data, and then signal, which is transmitted to the brain of the lion, in a form, which the lion is able to interpret and understand, in response to which, the lion thinks, a thought that is captured by a brain interface device picking up it’s brainwaves, converting it, translating into a human language you understand, converting it to voice sound, relayed back to you, which you hear in your head, whereby the lion’s response may sound to you perhaps like, “The same as I do everyday when humans like you come by across that barrier. Hungry.”

Imagine if we could ask different species of animals, how they feel about different things? For example, if we could ask a chicken about it’s sentiments that humans take its eggs or its life, for food consumption? Only time would tell, when such communication is possible, if it’s response, if any, or whatever it is, would suffice to convert the entire human population to vegetarianism. What would different animals say to us, if we asked how they felt about humans in general? Would they say they think we are cute and adorable? Or would they say we frighten them? Or would they say, we look tasty? Most importantly, would the animals tell us, that they see us as a threat?

Perhaps with a means to communicate across species barriers, with brainwave computing, we will able to negotiate with different animals. For example, we engage sharks to reach an understanding, where we would not hunt sharks for human consumption and sharks would not attack swimmers and beach-goers, more so, if a man goes overboard a ship’s deck, sharks would come to his aid. Perhaps we could discuss means of co-existing and cohabiting better, so as not to impede or violate each other’s spaces. Perhaps we could work out means, with their inputs, on the best way to protect, preserve and rebuild our environment. On the contrary perhaps, we may just perhaps confirm that some species are intrinsically hostile towards us and that is something we may not be able to change.

Whatever the outcome, I foresee, that when, not if for it is an eventuality I reiterate, the Brain Computer Interface technology enables us to read animal thoughts, one thing will be certain; humanity is likely to understand our animal neighbours better. Through that enhanced understanding, I foresee, greater respect by us at least, for them.

This article is the fourth in a Foresight Series written by Harish Shah on the Brain Computer Interface Technology, originally posted on Singapore Futurist, before being edited for reproduction on Futurista.

About Harish Shah

Harish Shah is Singapore’s pioneering local born Commercial Futurist and Sole-Proprietor of a Futurist Management Consulting practice, Stratserv Consultancy, which has fast become synonymous with Strategic Foresight in Southeast Asia. Harish developed a passion for studying, understanding, appreciating and embracing the future while he was an undergraduate at The University of Western Australia (UWA) in Perth, pursuing a Bachelor of Commerce degree with Triple Majors in Human Resource Management, Industrial Relations and Management along with Marketing electives. After graduating from UWA with a distinction average in each of his three majors, Harish returned to his native Singapore, where his formal education stopped, but his passion for the study of the future continued to grow. Besides being a Futurist, Harish is a seasoned strategic negotiator and accustomed to complex negotiations. He is a powerful speaker and presenter with a subtle sense of humour. Prior to entrepreneurship, Harish has worked as a HR consultant to some of the world’s top corporations, has sold industrial outsourcing services, managed learning & development, and he has been involved in managing rehabilitative work with a governmental organisation.
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