Artificial Intelligence Will Soon Allow Us to Write With Our Thoughts

Technological interfaces will soon allow us to improve many of our capabilities. In fact, right now, there are already people with quadriplegia who can write on a computer just by thinking about it, thanks to artificial intelligence.
Artificial Intelligence Will Soon Allow Us to Write With Our Thoughts

Last update: 10 September, 2021

Very soon, the human being will be able to write with their thoughts. This might sound like science fiction to you. However, just think of that well-known phrase of Arthur C. Clarke that “magic is just science that we don’t understand yet”. In effect, this comes true on a daily basis. Indeed, artificial intelligence is an architect that makes the impossible possible.

If there’s one thing we’ve always dreamed of, it’s doing things through the power of the mind. We all remember that scene where Luke Skywalker put his telekinesis to the test, after seeing how Yoda lifted his spaceship from the swamp with only his mental abilities. Well, the human being of the 21st century aspires to perform somewhat similar tasks.

How could this be possible? The key is in our eternal ally: technology and artificial intelligence. We’ve seen an example of this recently when scientists created an interface allowing a quadriplegic man to transform his thoughts into letters through a computer. Is this magic? Not at all, it’s science.

Brain-computer interfaces will soon be those mechanisms that expand many of our ordinary capabilities. Transhumanism is here to stay.

woman with technological figure to represent how to write with thought

Write with thought, how is it possible?

Imagine the brain as a sophisticated computer. Beyond your arteries, convolutions, blood vessels, astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, and microglia, electrical connections abound. Every movement, every act of looking, speaking, listening, feeling, reading, or writing, is all the result of a specific pattern of electrical activity in a certain region.

Knowing this offers us multiple possibilities. So much so, that transhumanism, that is, the fact of applying technology to improve human capacities is already an obvious reality. Indeed, at present, we already have more than one “cyborg”. One example is Neil Harbisson, a young artist who suffers from achromatopsia (the inability to perceive colors).

Thanks to an interface in his skull, he can “hear” the electromagnetic energy of colors and dedicate himself to art. However, now, we’ve gone one step further. We have a 65-year-old quadriplegic man who can write with his thoughts through a computer.

A better future for people with paralysis or neurological disorders

Details of this breakthrough and further research have been published in the journal Nature. One of its authors, Dr. Krishna Shenoy of Stanford University, points out that although the attempt to write with thought is something that’s already been tried before, a great milestone has now been achieved.

  • What was done was to implant multiple sensors in the brain of the 65-year-old patient, immobilized from the neck down, in the areas related to handwriting. Next, he was asked to imagine himself writing handwritten letters.
  • Then, and over several months, he learned this particular algorithm via artificial intelligence. Day by day, he was able to process that certain electrical patterns formed certain words, which he then reproduced on the screen. Week by week, this brain-computer interface acquired the ability to translate what the patient was thinking into words.

Write with thought to communicate with the world

The fact that a person with quadriplegia can project their thoughts onto a computer is a breakthrough. This technology facilitates the connection with the world for people with communication problems. Remember, for example, how Stephen Hawking communicated.

This great scientist and popularizer lost his speech in 1985. First, they developed a system of cards for him with printed letters that, thanks to the movement of his eyebrows, he pointed to while another person deciphered each word. Later, in 2014, another mechanism was developed for him.

He had an infrared sensor installed in his glasses that processed the movements of his cheekbones. In this way, he selected certain menus on his computer, and later, the program itself gave voice to his words.

If Hawking were still with us, surely he would now be able to write with his thoughts on a computer to communicate with the world. Indeed, this technique could be an essential ally in the lives of millions of people with similar injuries or illnesses. Also for those who can’t communicate due to vocal problems or can’t write due to movement limitations.

Technology and advances in the world of artificial intelligence may be the long-awaited hope for those who now live prostrate in silence, unable to connect with their environment. Notable changes are expected in just over a decade.

Brain analyzing data to represent how to write with thought

Writing with thought won’t be the only thing to be achieved shortly. In 2016, Elon Musk commenced the Neuralink project that promises to be a breakthrough in certain untreatable diseases. In fact, through a series of neural implants and chips, it seeks to treat spinal cord injuries, vision problems, epilepsy, and even Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s.

The aim is to put at our service all the possibilities that computers and increasingly sophisticated technological engineering have to offer. Machines that are combined with the biological and the neurological that will be programmed, very soon, to “turn on” damaged functions and capacities that, for various reasons, currently limit the life of some human beings.

We’ll soon be fully aware of these advances that today, seem like science fiction.

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  • Willett, F. R., Avansino, D. T., Hochberg, L. R., Henderson, J. M. & Shenoy, K. V. (2021). High-performance brain-to-text communication via handwriting. Nature593(7858), 249–254.