Jan Scheuermann is a 55-year-old quadriplegic woman who had electrodes implanted into the left motor cortex of her brain by DARPA which enabled her to successfully pilot a F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Jet (simulator) using nothing but her thoughts. Begging the question: how long until we can all have implants in our brain that enable us to stay in our comfy beds all day and accomplish everything we need by controlling robots?
DARPA Advanced Research Director Arati Prabhakar announced this revolutionary scientific breakthrough last week at the first annual Future of War conference held in Washington D.C.
The 55-year-old mother of two was rendered paralyzed years ago due to a rare genetic disease, and volunteered to work with DARPA scientists on this unprecedented experiment by having electrodes implanted into her brain that would allow her to control a robotic arm using nothing but her thoughts.
Using nothing but two pea-sized implants in her brain, and her thoughts, the paraplegic Scheurmann was able to successfully navigate an advanced F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Jet simulator and suddenly science was changed forever.
The 55-year-old mother of two in 2012 agreed to let surgeons implant electrodes on her brain to control a robotic arm. More recently, she flew an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter simulator using nothing but her thoughts, an official said.
Scheuermann, who became paralyzed years ago from a rare genetic disease, has tolerated the two pea-sized implants on her left motor cortex “very well,” Prabhakar said, allowing her to extend her participation in the DARPA project.
While the left motor cortex is understood to control the movement on the right side of the body, Scheuermann was able to manipulate both right– and left-handed versions of the robotic limb, Prabhakar said.
But the experiments aren’t limited to prosthetics. Indeed, so-called neural signaling is at the heart of the research.
So Scheuermann decided she wanted to try flying a simulator of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Prabhakar said, which is the Pentagon’s newest fighter jet and its most expensive weapons acquisition program.
So not just any fighter jet, but DARPA enabled a paraplegic woman to successfully fly the Pentagon’s NEWEST AND MOST ADVANCED fighter jet using nothing but her brainwaves.
“Instead of thinking about controlling a joystick, which is what our ace pilots do when they’re driving this thing, Jan’s thinking about controlling the airplane directly,” Prabhakar said. “For someone who’s never flown — she’s not a pilot in real life — she’s flying that simulator directly from her neural signaling.”
Prabhakar said the research is far from becoming reality. Even so, she acknowledged that it raises fundamental moral and ethical questions about the intersection of biology and robotics.
“In doing this work, we’ve also opened this door,” she said. “We can now see a future where we can free the brain from the limitations of the human body and I think we can all imagine amazing good things and amazing potential bad things that are on the other side of that door.”
“I had the same tingles because I realized that we have now stepped over a great threshold into what’s possible and, very importantly, what patients can now expect in terms of restoration — this is a very important part — not rehabilitation, but restoration,” the retired Army colonel said during a 2012 episode of CBS news program, “60 Minutes.”
This technology has near limitless applications when it comes to the everyday lives of paraplegic individuals, and over the coming years (if DARPA releases it to the general public) it will likely change the lives of millions across the globe.
I can’t help but wonder though: Am I the only one concerned about having complete control over your own thoughts? What if for instance you thought about that McDonald’s down below and suddenly the plane took a nosedive for that strip of land below, or you thought about that ejector seat control and in an instant you find yourself flying out of the jet at unthinkable speeds? What then?
This also begs the question of whether or not there was any credence to that protest held yesterday outside of VICE Magazine’s Brooklyn headquarters where protesters attempted to levitate and move the building using their minds.
For more from Dr. Arati Prabhakar’s talk on ‘How Will Technology Shape The Future of War?’ you can check out her hour-long discussion here (and other talks from the conference HERE):