Merging of Man and Machine Takes Giant Step Forward!

Boyé Lafayette De Mente

TOKYO—Science fiction is rapidly becoming reality—an incredible phenomenon that is both fascinating and frightening. I have commented before on the remarkable advances Japanese robot scientists have made in “humanizing” their creations. But their latest step in robotics goes well beyond that point.

     Japanese scientists have now created a robot that can read the mind of a monkey that is 10,000 kilometers away on a different continent! That’s right—a monkey…some 7,000 miles from Japan!

     In early 2008 the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International [ATR] in Kyoto, Japan joined with scientists at Duke University in the U.S. in connecting the brain of a monkey with a humanoid robot in the Japanese laboratory. The robot “read the mind” of the monkey and duplicated the monkey’s movements while it was still thinking about moving!

     That’s right! There was no time lag in the movements of the robot. It followed the brain waves of the monkey and began each movement at precisely the same time. When the monkey was told to move and thought about it before starting to move the robot performed the movement first!

     ATR research supervisor Mitsuo Kawato says this new brain-machine interface has already gone beyond monkey-robot and computer experiments, not only making it possible in the near future for people to exercise mind-control over robots but also over a wide variety of other machines, from television sets and computers to household appliances.

     Kawato explains that when people focus their attention or move their bodies discernible changes take place in their brainwaves and in the flow of blood patterns in their brains. This data can be monitored to reveal the intentions of the individuals and translated into commands that can be recognized by computers, robots and other machines.

     He adds that using brain-machine interface technologies that will eliminate the need for human beings to physically operate machines could transform the way people live and work—an understatement to say the least.

     Also in 2008 researchers at Keio University in Tokyo wired a man who had been injured and couldn’t move his arms or legs to a computer. With several hours of training, the man was able to operate programs on the computer by thought-control alone!

      Similar research is also taking place at several other universities in the U.S., where the process is known as Brain Computer Interface [BCI], with equally remarkable results.

     Keio’s Junichi Ushiba and his colleagues have also developed a way for people to project their minds into a virtual world “seeing” themselves and experiencing the feelings of flying, mountain-climbing, etc., just by thinking about these actions.

     Ushiba says that by extracting information from higher order brain activity it is possible to literally read a person’s mind—to actually see what they are thinking about.  This amazing breakthrough obviously relates to the holographic programs featured on Star Trek, where members of the crew of the star ship Enterprise can enter the programs and interact with the characters in them.

    In the United States, high-tech company Linden Lab is a leader in creating virtual worlds that on the order of the Enterprise’s holodeck programs.

     Based in San Francisco, Linden Lab is the creator of Second Life and the virtual world platform Second Life Grid, technology used in creating virtual worlds. Second Life allows a person to experience life in a virtual world.

     The opportunities offered by this technology are simply mindboggling—and I predict that sexual fantasies will soon replace violence and other action programs as the most popular simulations.


Boyé Lafayette De Mente has been involved with Asia since the late 1940s as a member of a U.S. intelligence agency, journalist and editor. He is a graduate of Jōchi University in Tokyo, Japan and Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale, Arizona, USA. In addition to books on the business practices, social behavior and languages of China, Japan, Korea and Mexico he has written extensively about the moral collapse of the U.S. along with books on his home state of Arizona. To see a full list of his books go to: Recent books include: CHINA Understanding & Dealing with the Chinese Way of Doing Business; JAPAN Understanding & Dealing with the NEW Japanese Way of Doing Business; AMERICA’S FAMOUS HOPI INDIANS; ARIZONA’S LORDS OF THE LAND [the Navajos] and SPEAK JAPANESE TODAY – A Little Language Goes a Long Way!