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Consciousness in mixed systems: merging artificial and biological minds via Brain-Machine Interface

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Abstract: The rapidly developing field of Brain-Machine Interface (BMI) technology seeks to establish a direct communication-and-control channel between human brain and machines. Practical applications for BMI include restoration of lost vision and motor functions, and even extending normal human capabilities.But unfortunately current BMI systems are far too poor to achieve even a level of performance that is comparable to what humans are normally capable of, let alone improving it. And this situation holds on for quite a while. The possible solution for coming out is to move research focus to those aspects of brain-machine interaction that usually do not receive much attention.The study of consciousness is one of such important aspects, as this poster seeks to prove, that could eventually allow us to bring BMI technology to the advanced stages, making its capabilities closer to capabilities of those BMI devices that appear in science fiction. Understanding consciousness and how it arises from the brain is crucial for achieving that goal.And BMI technology itself provides a lot of new questions and opportunities for consciousness research. BMI can progress far enough to allow such levels of integration between artificial devices and biological neural networks that they could work as a single system, not just separate entities communicating between each other. But how consciousness can then be represented in this mixed system? Will consciousness be privilege of living part only? Can the artificial part add something to conscious experience or even expand it? Furthermore, it would be possible to integrate neural systems of different living organisms by interfacing them to single artificial network. Will their consciousness be integrated then too? And how can such integrated mind be experienced?This poster explores ways in which Brain-Machine Interfaces can contribute to consciousness research, and discusses how better understanding of consciousness in context of brain-machine interaction will allow us to build BMI systems with extended capabilities.

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