The Brain Electric: The Dramatic High-Tech Race to Merge Minds and Machines

Malcolm Gay. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-0-374-13984-1
Journalist Gay observes the brilliant, fiercely competitive, and unnervingly entrepreneurial neuroscientists who seek the means to bring humans one step closer to the transhuman realm. These researchers (many of whom receive Defense Department funding or have their own startups) implant electrodes in subjects’ brains to allow thoughts to control computers, prosthetic limbs, and potentially even human exoskeletons. Gay breathlessly but expertly recounts one experiment, which took place around the year 2000, that marked a milestone in the revolutionary new technology of neuroprosthetics: scientists successfully connected a rat’s brain to a computer, allowing the rat to produce a chemical reward by means of thought alone. Though he clearly admires these men (and all the scientists he profiles are men), Gay has done his homework. His graphic but comprehensible descriptions of struggles with devices of Rube Goldbergian complexity make it clear that this technology is still largely confined to the lab. Gay is reassuringly skeptical of the tabloid-style hype surrounding neuroprosthetics, but he makes a convincing case that, sooner rather than later, neuroprostheses will become more commonplace. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 08/17/2015
Release date: 10/20/2015
Genre: Nonfiction
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