Newell uses the phrase “science fiction” a few times in describing this possible BCI-driven future, along with overt references to The Matrix film series. But he also has a sales-pitch example of how mainstream acceptance could begin: with brain-control apps, whose interfaces resemble modern phone apps, for boosts like easier sleep.
“Sleep will become an app you run, where you input, ‘I need this much sleep, this much REM,'” Newell says. “Instead of fluffing pillows or taking Zolpidem, I’ll just say, this is how I want to sleep right now.” From there, satisfied users will tell their friends about, say, sleeping through 12-hour flights “completely refreshed with my circadian rhythm,” he estimates.
Newell uses a personal story to illustrate why he believes brain-driven perspective is so malleable: He had corneal transplant surgery over a decade ago, which changed his perception of color between the two eyes. When his surgery corrected how his eyes saw color, it “perturbed that relationship” in his brain and created ghost-duplicated images until he got used to the change over a span of a few weeks.
Where do you go from there, if brains are so fungible? Newell mentions Valve’s work on synthetic hands as a collaboration with other researchers, then adds, “As soon as you do that, you say, ‘Oh, can you give people a tentacle?’ Then you think, ‘Oh, brains were never designed to have tentacles,’ but it turns out, brains are really flexible.” Why Newell immediately jumped to tentacles as a fantasy appendage is beyond us, but, hey.
Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction