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Media is revolutionizing science in all its forms, from patient access to information, to technologies doctors use to diagnose and treat, to how science research brings solutions to global health problems. The JUST Science Section discusses the various ways media drives scientific advances and affects social change.

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When Silicon Meets Biology: Brain-Computer Interfaces and the Evolution of Man

Karina Saravia 
August, 2013 

Modern technological and scientific advances are directly influencing how human beings interact and engage with the world around them. In The United States, the Obama administration has prioritized an initiative to map the connections of the human brain, combining national (i.e., NIH, NSF, DARPA) and private sector (e.g., Allen Institute, HHMI, Kavli Foundation, Salk Institute) investments of approximately $200 million dollars (See BRAIN Initiative). This initiative will expectantly progress BCI (Brain-Computer Interface) technologies, eventually allowing people to control objects and communicate with one and other nearly telepathically.

Image source: venturebeat.comBCIs have already been implemented in the medical field by way of mechanical limb manipulation and disease biomarkers (See Konigsberg; Rogers). The new era of “cognitive computing” converges multimodal data, neuroscience and nano technology, supercomputer simulations, algorithms and programming models to influence communication, entertainment, consumerism, education and national defense (See Modha; Pelletier). Is Ray Kurzweil’s “singularity” near? Will humans become cyboric entities? Will all this serve to harm or benefit society in the future? 

Whether the singularity evolves from Sci-Fi into “actual” reality or not, it is undeniable that an integration of the synthetic and the organic is before us. Society has already assimilated the Internet, mobile devices and social media networks into everyday life. As active participants in our converging culture, it is our cvil responsibility to be educated and aware of the implications of these emerging technologies. It is necessary utilize the available tools and resources to build a worthy socio-techno ecology. We must develop the democratic potential of this networked society and participate in creating the world we want before it becomes a Skynet-like Hollywood horror. 

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