At the World Cup opening ceremony next week in São Paulo, a paralyzed Brazilian will walk onto the field and kick the ceremonial first ball. The young man or woman will be aided by the newest iteration in a line of mind-controlled exoskeletons—if everything goes according to plan. The pilot will wear a 3D-printed helmet and a concealed cap of electrodes. All he or she needs to do is think about the necessary movements, and “the brain–machine interface will convert human intent into robotic motion,” The Atlantic reported.
Duke University neuroscientist and Brazilian native Miguel Nicolelis is leading the initiative, and he and his team are working frantically to prepare for the exoskeleton’s debut. Nicolelis told the BBC, “This is just the beginning. . . . Our proposal was always to demonstrate the technology in the World Cup as the first, symbolic step of a new approach in the care of patients with paralysis.”
However, critics are dubious the exoskeleton will be capable of everything Nicolelis and his team are promising. So far, mind-controlled exoskeletons have only been able to send “start” and “stop” signals. Andrew Schwartz, a neuroprosthetics researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, told MIT Technology Review, “Everything you’ll see in the demo will be fancy robotics, not brain control, and it will probably all be preprogrammed.” And Tim Vogels, a computational and theoretical neuroscientist at Oxford University, told The Atlantic, “Do I see any hurdles? There are tons of them, right? There are only hurdles.”
I never cease to be amazed at the ingenuity God has given us humans. We use this gift not only to imitate his beautiful creativity, but also to overcome limitations, like Nicolelis and his team are attempting to do. When we see a problem, we work hard to solve it. It’s what we do. Sure, other creatures have the ability to problem-solve. But humans are unrivaled in their dexterity. Even as we continue to make incredible progress in defying limitations, however, we will never be able to escape hurdles. And there are some things we just can’t do as humans. There is always something beyond our reach, problems we can’t solve, barriers we cannot break. The hard, cold facts of life reinforce that. And so does Pentecost.
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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Kevin P. Emmert