Paralysed people will walk again
Already there have been clinical trials using advanced neurotechnology where paralysed patients have been able to walk again.
Thanks to nerve signal boosting implants in the spine, three paralysed men in a 2018 Swiss and UK study were given the ability to walk a short distance. This technology has evolved so rapidly that just last year a man at the Grenoble University Hospital in France who had lost the use of his lower limbs after a tragic fall broke his neck was given a second chance at mobility. In possibly the most sci-fi display imaginable, the man was able to regain the power to walk with an incredible robotic exoskeleton controlled by two 64-electrode brain implants. The implants, placed between his skin and his brain, collected his brain signals, decoded them with an algorithm and transformed them into movement. The developers are hoping that this technology will lead to greater control for paralysed patients.
Brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) will let us control technology with our minds
One of the most mind-bending ideas that is being seen in robotics and neurotechnology is the emergence of Brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) – brain implants that detect and decode neural signals and allow you to control technology such as machinery or computers with your mind.
BMIs have been used as the basis for allowing paralysed patients to walk but the possibilities could be limitless if the technology is used safely.
There have been concerns regarding the number of electrodes that can safely be implanted in the brain, and the dangers of using metal that can corrode and damage brain cells, however Elon Musk’s company Neuralink has claimed to use more electrodes carried on polymer threads, that are less likely to corrode and have detrimental effects. This could mean a wealth of new technologies will emerge with greater advancement in the coming decade – and possibly an entire landscape shift in many industries.
Diseases will be edited out of our DNA
The medical field has advanced so far that the gene-editing tool CRISPR could finally treat disease in a new way – by disrupting its ability to spread at the genetic level.
CRISPR which stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, could be a revolutionary new way of treating life-threatening diseases. CRISPR uses a bacterial enzyme to effectively target and remove specific DNA sequences, which can then be replaced.
It works when scientists locate a particular genome causing a health problem and then write a genetic guide to recognise that strand of DNA. They then place that guide into a DNA-cutting enzyme – which then is introduced to the patient to cut out the problematic DNA strands. After this, scientists can edit or introduce new strands and effectively ‘cut and paste’ DNA – which could be developed to ensure critical advances in patient care or even cure life-threatening diseases.
CRISPR is still a controversial subject. In 2018 Chinese researcher, He Jiankui, was sent to prison amid international uproar after he led a project that used CRISPR technology to alter the genetic makeup of twin girls in IVF in order to protect them from HIV.
In ethically regulated trials however, CRISPR could change medicine for the better. Studies in China and the US have used the technology to effectively help patients fight cancer.
There will be an AI war between deepfakes, detection AI, and non-existent people
You’ve more than likely heard about deepfakes, the video editing technology that uses AI to let you create a fake video of someone by superimposing their face into an existing video scene.
These days anyone with a laptop can use freely available AI algorithms to easily create hyper-realistic reproductions of people and fake videos.
Deepfakes have advanced rapidly in only a short time, posing a realistic and urgent need for AI-detection to be developed to combat misleading material in the media.
Already there are millions of dollars invested in universities and start-ups to perfect AI based deepfake-detection programs to effectively turn AI against itself.
But the rabbit hole goes even deeper when you take into account synthetic media, a phenomenon of artificially-generated media that is both hyper-realistic and quickly advancing. Synthetic media can create faces of non-existent people – for example, try logging on to This Person Does Not Exist and refreshing the pages to see entirely synthetic yet eerily real photos of people. Or to see China’s first prototypes of a synthetic news anchor, take a look at Xinhua State News.
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