Digital technology is rapidly changing the world. Data and data consumption is doubling every few years.
We are now at a point that has made it possible to have direct brain-to-computer communication with gestures and literal blinks of an eye.
Innovation in skull cap-based sensors, in conjunction with sophisticated signal processing, allows us to pinpoint the origin of signals in the brain and determine the content.
It is not so much of a stretch to envision a day when you will be able to “think” a command – a command decoded by a chip implanted underneath the skull.
Information decoded by that chip will be sent to another semiconductor chip, a microelectronic transmitter/receiver implanted under your skin, that will transmit data wirelessly.
A receiver implanted in another individual would receive the signal encoded into “brain language” This essentially creates a new technology: mental telepathy.
Mental telepathy, or reading someone’s thoughts from a distance, has always been fascinating to scientists and engineers.
It is often considered to be the stuff of Harry Potter and various futuristic movies. But as the famous science fiction writer Arthur C. Clark once stated, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
Think for a moment about the significance and magnitude of this new technology: we would be able to know and communicate our thoughts via microelectronics. Using the Internet, these thoughts could be transmitted all over the world.
Literally, anyone with compatible technology could access our thoughts!
Of course, since we would only want to communicate with specific people, we would put cybersecurity systems and boundaries in place.
However, the digital world in which we exist would make mental telepathy technology susceptible to hacking, much like any other technology. This presents an ethical notion regarding your last secured boundary: your mind. The development of mental telepathy applications and technology is at a theoretical stage where that can be intruded upon.
This is why it is important that we must consider all implications of exposing and securing access to someone’s brain, which is the last true protector of individual privacy, or the Last Firewall.
There are some great applications of mental telepathy that can positively impact our global society. In the simplest implementation, it could help translate commands in the brain to move parts of the body, such as an arm or a finger. Artificial limbs and devices could be electronically and directly connected to the brain.
That could be an amazing advancement for someone who, through war, an accident, or some other unforeseen event, lost the function of an appendage. We are already moving quickly along the pathway of actuating body parts through mental commands such as eye blinks and gestures. This is clearly a wanted and desired step for society.
Along with the medical aspects of mental telepathy, wouldn’t it be great to sit in your office and simply think-and-send direct thoughts to someone you care about? Imagine communicating at the speed of thought!
Mental contemplations directly transferred to someone else would be a tremendously rich experience. Those are just two of the uplifting possibilities that developing mental telepathy technology would bring to society.
The question that needs to be considered is if our ethics and humanity will follow that path of positivity.
The expansion of data and the centralization of information and discoveries yet to be made, such as aforementioned examples, have both enhanced life and paradoxically left us much more vulnerable.
That said, there is a critical need to educate, develop and apply new methods of cybersecurity. Cybersecurity is one of the National Academy of Engineering’s Grand Challenges.
We don’t truly understand the fundamentals necessary to implement an effective, all-encompassing cybersecurity strategy. And, since the rate that civilizations absorb new technologies and create the necessary adjustments and security protocols is very slow, the educational cyber-engineering programs we develop are often obsoleted by cyber technologies and cyber threats that are advancing and changing by the moment.
In other words, what is considered a best practice in cybersecurity today will be obsolete tomorrow. Therefore, an active research program is vital to abut advanced education efforts.
At Morgan State, we have the Center for Reverse Engineering and Assured Microelectronics (CREAM). This laboratory focuses on many hardware aspects of cybersecurity.
Silicon chips are the backbone of personal computing, the Internet and the Internet of Things (IoT).
New silicon CPU chips contain 7.2 billion transistors. Most of the chips used commercially are manufactured offshore, usually in either Japan or China.
As you can imagine, the challenges of verifying that there are hidden malicious circuits in the maze of those 7.2 billion transistors are extremely daunting.
CREAM is just one of the targeted research areas in the School of Engineering seeking to fulfill the new mission of Morgan State, which is to be The Premier Urban Research University in the State of Maryland.
The payoff from research comes not solely from discovery. The act of doing research keeps the educational program current by exposing the teaching faculty to the latest discoveries. The flow of scientific information proceeds from the laboratory to archival journals to review articles and textbooks.
It is through this process that new knowledge is introduced to students, and it is how we will train our next generation of cyber-engineers and protect the most critical tool we as humans have access to our brains, the Last Firewall.