The gripping and revelatory story of the dramatic race to merge the human brain with machines
Leading neuroscience researchers are racing to unlock the secrets of the mind. On the cusp of decoding brain signals that govern motor skills, they are developing miraculous technologies that will enable paraplegics and wounded soldiers to move prosthetic limbs and will give all of us the power to manipulate computers and other objects through thought alone. These fiercely competitive scientists are vying for government and venture capital funding, prestige, and wealth.
Part life-altering cure, part science fiction, part Defense Department dream, these cutting-edge brain-computer interfaces promise to improve lives--but they also hold the potential to augment soldiers’ combat capabilities. InThe Brain Electric, Malcolm Gay follows the dramatic emergence of these technologies, taking us behind the scenes in operating rooms, startups, and research labs, where the future is unfolding. With access to many of the field’s top scientists, Gay illuminates this extraordinary race--where science, medicine, profit, and war converge--for the first time. But this isn’t just a story about technology. At the heart of the scientists’ research is a group of brave patient-volunteers, whose lives are given new meaning through these experiments.The Brain Electricasks us to rethink our relationship to technology, our bodies, even consciousness itself, challenging our assumptions about what it means to be human.
“An ambitious, well-researched book,The Brain Electricillustrates the field's exciting potential not just to aid the disabled but one day, perhaps, to enhance human abilities altogether.” —Jennifer Latson,The Boston Globe
“One of the most fascinating . . . books you will ever read.” —Robert Epstein,Scientific American MIND
“The Brain Electricconvincingly illuminates the ways current biomedical research and breakthroughs in neuroprosthetics are steadily gaining ground on what was once wild science fiction” —Booklist
“Gay observes the brilliant, fiercely competitive, and unnervingly entrepreneurial neuroscientists who seek the means to bring humans one step closer to the transhuman realm . . . 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.” —Publishers Weekly
“To most, the notion of joining the human mind to a machine exists only in science fiction, yet revolutionary research combining medicine and technology has moved past proof of concept to demonstrate potentials for life-altering cures and military applications. First-time author Gay tells the emotional tale of scientific efforts in which neural implants, brain mapping, and advanced technology allow humans to control computers with their minds and instruct, for example, a prosthetic arm to hold someone's hand. While brimming with extensive and well-cited research studies, scientific background, and current events, the book comprises a collection of stories . . . The human side moves the narrative forward and will engage not just science readers but those who love inspiring people.” —Library Journal
“In The Brain Electric, Malcolm Gay has brilliantly opened the door to a new and startling world of engineering that will eventually transform many thousands of lives for the better. He brings the creative scientific process to life with vibrant prose, an unerring eye for the telling human detail, and a flair for capturing the drama of intellectual discovery. This is a masterpiece of reporting, and science writing at its best” —Fergus M. Bordewich, author of America’s Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise That Preserved the Union
“What seemed the realm of science fiction just a few years ago is now real: the ability of a human being to manipulate a prosthetic arm fluidly and spontaneously, using only thought. So too can one person now think a movement and 'touch' another over a computer network. The human brain, it turns out, can learn with breathtaking speed to use digital networks and the machines they control as an extension of the mind and body. Malcolm Gay'sThe Brain Electric is a fascinating and thorough study of the fast-evolving science behind this inevitable mating, as well as of the recent revelations of neuroscience that we perceive all objects first in terms of how we can manipulate and move with them. At root, Gay's authoritative account is an exploration of consciousness and the concept of self at the cutting edge of science. A must-read for anyone who wonders just how far we've come.” —Peter Heller, author of The Dog Stars and The Painter
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