The Brain Electric | Malcolm Gay
THE BRAIN ELECTRIC: THE DRAMATIC HIGH-TECH RACE TO MERGE MINDS WITH MACHINES by Duncan Gay looks at the technological advances of merging humans with machines. The scientific advancements in humanity this could bring about is near endless, could we mind control robots into any horrible life-threatening situation? Could it assist paraplegics walk? Could I send an automaton to work in my stead while I controlled it from bed? You name it. But to me this has a huge downside, I believe this is all the robot overlords are waiting for while they sit idle, once we work out how to merge with them they will strike. But I am digressing more into science fiction, enjoy Kernel Kate’s review as she delves into the serious side of this scientific, easy to read non-fiction.
THE BRAIN ELECTRIC is out now from the fine organic humans from Text Publishing. It is currently available in most bookstores in Australia and New Zealand and it can be obtained HERE……..all the best……JK.
Can you Imagine a world where medical technology has caught up to Science Fiction and the human brain can seamlessly control a computer interface? As Malcolm Gay shows us in THE BRAIN ELECTRIC there is no need to imagine anymore. Are you ready to go inside The Matrix?
THE BRAIN ELECTRIC SYNOPSIS:
THE BRAIN ELECTRIC is an intriguing and sometimes complicated journey into neuroscience. Following some of the worlds leading neuroscientists and researchers through their research into the human brain and its innermost workings might sound dry but at heart it is a human story. Gay first introduces us to this cerebral world with the story of a patient named Brookman, a thirty year old epileptic about to undergo brain surgery to help alleviate his condition, and his doctor Eric Leuthardt.
Brookmans’ procedure involves opening his skull and attaching electrodes to his brain to find the source of his seizures and a few days later remove that section of the brain. Brookman has also volunteered to take part in some activities for research while his brain is hooked up to electrodes and its this type of research while forms the really fascinating developments taking place in neuroscience.
Using Brookmans’ story as a starting point and looping back to it at various intervals THE BRAIN ELECTRIC walks us through the developments which have lead to Brookman being treated this way and the insights the research team hope to gain from it. This includes the race to develop better electrodes which would last longer and provide more accurate readings as well as the race to create a brain-computer interface allowing patients or monkeys to control a computer using just their neural activity. Gay explores the fascinating application of this research by the military industrial complex in creating prosthetic arms which can be worked using the same neutrons and nerves as a real arm.
He even gives us the story of Kevin Warwick, a researcher who in 2002 made history by having a grid of electrodes implanted to his nervous system as did his wife allowing her to control his arm in front of a live audience. In Warwick’s own words “You’re into the matrix , and to say, ‘Oh no, that’s just science fiction…’ Well, no.” Inseparable from all the technology and innovation is the near endless cycle of funding. The drama and politics of taking each development through the process of winning grants and finding commercial potential seems to take more of the researchers time and energy than their actual research does.
Gay leads us through this world by first introducing us to the team doing each piece of work, letting us see their human side – likes, hobbies, eccentricities – before we follow them deep into the folds of their human or money patients brains.
Author Malcolm Gay is an award winning arts reporter and journalist and this makes THE BRAIN ELECTRIC a surprisingly easy and enjoyable read considering its technical content. Gays’ journalism background really shows through the books structure with many of the scientific developments and discoveries covered through interviews with doctors, patients and researchers. As he’s not a scientist himself Gay has a knack for asking all the right questions to fill the gaps for those of us who are interested but didn’t even do high school science let alone an advanced degree.
Add to this the real people and their stories which Gay works into the book and rather than a cold lab experiment with a robot arm you’re reading about a real person telling you what it means to be able to to pick something up for themselves again. It’s neuroscience made instantly relatable.
The real downside of most science writing and reporting is the speed of the science it’s reporting on. These developments and revelations have the ability to be outstripped in a matter of years so if you’re planning to read it make it soon. In fact the 2002 development made by Warwick is just the starting off point and while now viewed as historic but has been outstripped by later work. Like many scientific works THE BRAIN ELECTRIC while cutting edge now faces a future of updates and revisions to remain relevant.
If you’re a Science Fiction fan who wants more science this is a book for you. With Gays’ easy style and the fascinating content THE BRAIN ELECTRIC opens a fascinating window into the world of cutting edge neuroscience.
Having always loved stories one of Kernel Kate’s most frequent childhood memories was her parents telling her in the early hours that it was way too late to still be reading and to go to sleep, but she would always sneak in the end of the chapter. Her love of stories led to a career in movies as well as remaining an avid reader of everything from novels to academic papers and junk mail. She makes a perfect reading machine fit to the Salty Cob.
** All images courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the publisher or distributor – credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.