Online bank hacker turned neuroscientist, Moran Cerf took the stage on the second day of THiNK 2013 as he spoke about the human mind and how hacking into it is not very different from hacking into a computer. The session was aptly titled “The Brain Hacker: Meet the Man Who Can Tell What You Are Thinking. And Why”
Cerf, who has also been a pilot and a radio host in the past admitted that the human mind is not very different from a computer. In both cases, one is not fully aware of what goes on inside, but can only control the inputs and monitor the outputs. Using this method, Cerf actively explored the world of computer hacking and recounted how he often broke into banks online only to point out the loopholes in the system; and then get hired by the same company to rectify the system errors.
Cerf went through a traumatizing experience at one point when his team changed his personal database to proclaim him dead in the eyes of the government. It was only then Cerf realised, that the methods he employed to hack into computers could very well be used to explore the human mind. “I realized that it was possible to apply the same methods of computer hacking and break into the most fascinating black box in the world – the human brain.”
Talking about his research, Cerf informed the audience that it is possible for a computer to describe a person’s thoughts by monitoring how his brain reacted to its surroundings. Delving deeper, he found that the cells present in the human brain communicated in the language of ‘short electrical bursts’ and that if he could eavesdrop this communication, then it would be possible to read a person’s thoughts and translate them into actions.
Using this idea, Cerf was able to project a man’s thoughts on a screen before him without him having to utter a single world. Cerf’s team then used his ground-breaking technology to control machines using only human thoughts. What was once considered impossible was now a reality, humans and animals can now control and use artificial limbs with just their thoughts: “In the near future we can see more and more people connecting to machines and activating them using their thoughts.”
By Kumar Saurabh