This may come as good news to those who are unable to speak due to disability or disease: “a research team has developed a method to synthesize a person’s speech using the brain signals that are related to the movements of their jaw, larynx, lips and tongue” per this article.
What does this mean?
Well, according to the article’s headline, this means scientists have cracked the brain’s code for spoken sentences, and in the not so distant future, brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) will be able to read the brain’s activity and translate it directly into digitized speech.
So, yes, of course this is welcome news insofar as helping those who can no longer speak return to communicating with the efficiency that comes with the spoken word. As Neurology Today adds, however, “challenges remain to translating this development into clinical practice for patients who can no longer speak,” so it may be some time before this technology is reliable and safe enough to be put to use regularly.
In the meantime, however, we’re left to our own speculation and the realms of science fiction to probe what this advancement might mean for better or for worse.
For example, in the EMPATHY series, one of the saga’s main characters is struck silent due to complications from her use of the EMPATHY BCI. With an invasive brain-computer interface already installed, one might presume this character’s affliction to be fleeting, but on the contrary, the BCI fried their brain’s language center and, as such, they’re incapable of communicating using human language of any kind.
Exacerbating the issue further is that a rogue AI remains trapped in this character’s mind and becomes more adept over time at interpreting (and then countering) this particular character’s intentions. Horrifying to be sure, but this is a speculative example, after all.
Or is it?
As we recently covered in this post, other BCI technologies have become more efficient at decoding thoughts in general, and the ability to understand “mental intent” could prove as useful as it could prove dangerous.
How advancements related to speech interpretation ultimately manifest themselves in real life remains to be seen, but readers everywhere can read about how one particular version of a brain-computer interface (namely, EMPATHY) affects those who have it installed (and those who don’t) by checking out the saga’s first two installments below.
Oh, and this June, signed print copies are 15% off with keyword SUMMER19! And you can get 40% off ebooks with keyword PRIDE if you order directly from my publisher.