Artificial Intelligence Intelligent Design Mind Naturalism Neuroscience

New robotic device is controlled only by thought, no brain implant

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It could help people with movement disorders, without surgery:

Beyond that, such research raises a philosophical question: If the mind is an illusion, how can it act directly on external things, by the force of decision-making alone?

New Mind-Controlled Robot Arm Needs No Brain Implant” at Mind Matters News

See also: The placebo effect is real,not a trick But the fact that the mind acts on the body troubles materialists. Such facts, they say, require revision.

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9 Replies to “New robotic device is controlled only by thought, no brain implant

  1. 1
    Seversky says:

    So basically they have sensors on the skin picking up electrical activity in the brain and use more sophisticated software to overcome the problem of poorer signal quality compared with that of implanted sensors. It’s not telling us anything new about the hard problem of consciousness. It’s still hard.

  2. 2
    EricMH says:

    Not sure how this is fundamentally different than invasive versions. Unless the mind control is taking place through completely immaterial psychokinesis, but that seems unlikely. In which case, it is not clear how this is controlled by ‘force of decision-making alone’ instead of by another sort of material medium, such as reading electronic signals off the brain.

    On the other hand, if it is being controlled by reading brain patterns instead of direct electrical signaling, I can see more of a case for ‘decision-making alone’. In other words, where are these patterns coming from, since the patterns are an abstraction from the signals? Perhaps that is the relevance of the use of machine learning.

  3. 3
    News says:

    EricMH at 2, if I understand correctly, the person controls the device by thinking about doing something. Wouldn’t they have called that magic at one time? It’s true we control our own hands but one can argue, they are part of our bodies and it’s not clear what role thought plays. In this case, it seems clear that the metal is not a part of the person’s body or even inside it. We shall see.

  4. 4
    AaronS1978 says:

    I believe it reads the pattern it learns for movement. They been doing things for a while. They have to train the ai specific for you and it effectively reads the pattern and executes the closet movement for that pattern. John Dylan Haynes does this type of research. There is another guy I can’t remember his name currently.

    I do have a question though, I don’t see how this supports the idea of an immaterial mind. Now if this is an example of willful movement using the physical part components of our brain I get that. And people that think that the individual in the mind doesn’t exist are loony. But much like the rest of us, I’m not seeing the relevance here.

    If we could get an explanation of why this is proof of the immaterial mind enacting control that would be nice, because any materialist is going to look at this claim, say we are nuts and over reaching our claim as a desperate attempt to find evidence for the soul and then quickly show all the causal relations between the neural impulse of the brain and that robotic arm. And then we look foolish

    I only say it like that because this has been what has been said to me by other SUPER polite materialists, not on UD

  5. 5
    EricMH says:

    I would agree this new technology not fundamentally different than invasive brain control. But, it does illustrate the curious thing about brain control more vividly.

    Here’s an article about traditional invasive brain control: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-is-it-like-to-control-a-robotic-arm-with-a-brain-implant/

    Basically, you watch the robot do something, while pretending to do the same thing yourself, and the robot watches your brain patterns. It then learns the association between brain patterns and the action, and then you try to reproduce the brain pattern to make the robot perform the action. The non-invasive variety relies a lot more on reading electrical pulses and other signals the body produces.

    So, the weird thing is that this is not like sending an electrical signal from a button to turn on a light. There is a pattern the brain generates that signifies the mind’s intent, and that pattern is what drives the robot in both the invasive and non-invasive variety.

    The interesting part about this is that the pattern emerges as a function of the person’s will. The pattern is not always there in the brain. This looks a lot more like the intuitive notion of free will vs. the material determinist point of view. If the determinist was correct, the pattern would cause the conscious choice. Free will says the conscious choice causes the pattern. This technology relies on the latter case being true, in order to accurately reproduce what the patient intends. If, instead, the pattern preceded the choice, i.e. if the technology learned the signal produced by the patient observing the robot behavior instead of the patient’s intent, then the patient would have the experience of either the machine anticipating their intent or behaving contrary to their intent. Neither of which would suffice for a useful brain controlled technology.

    Thus, this technology seems to be a technology which very effectiveness depends on the reality of free will.

  6. 6
    AaronS1978 says:

    @ericmh

    I did a search on Infiniteknowledgewhetherrightorwrong.com aka “google”

    And I really found nothing that contradicted your point above and I really looked.

    I was mildly relieved to be honest with you

    But I really do have to agree with you from what I read it’s literally the power of imagination that makes those things move

    They were even able to get people to perform one task while making the arm hold a cup

    It was quite impressive

    I think the idea that the consciousness is a slave to the brain and actions are taken before we are aware of them doesn’t make sense you don’t have to initiate every single action but as a collective whole you are in control

    I read an article by Sean Carroll recently on this
    He made it interesting point free will is as real as a baseball, Individually all the parts of a baseball are worthless and you can’t play the game with them but put them all together and you have a baseball which now you can play the game

    Individually parts of our brain look like they don’t have free will but when you put them all together then you do

  7. 7
    kairosfocus says:

    AS78, composition and linked organisation are categorically distinct from what is needed for free, volitional rational thought, as has come up here several times recently. A point of departure is Reppert:

    . . . let us suppose that brain state A [–> notice, state of a wetware, electrochemically operated computational substrate], which is token identical to the thought that all men are mortal, and brain state B, which is token identical to the thought that Socrates is a man, together cause the belief [–> concious, perceptual state or disposition] that Socrates is mortal. It isn’t enough for rational inference that these events be those beliefs, it is also necessary that the causal transaction be in virtue of the content of those thoughts . . . [But] if naturalism is true, then the propositional content is irrelevant to the causal transaction that produces the conclusion, and [so] we do not have a case of rational inference. In rational inference, as Lewis puts it, one thought causes another thought not by being, but by being seen to be, the ground for it. But causal transactions in the brain occur in virtue of the brain’s being in a particular type of state that is relevant to physical causal transactions.

    See the key issue? KF

  8. 8
    PaoloV says:

    KF @7:

    Timely clarifying commentary. Very appreciated.

  9. 9

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