Scientific breakthrough: Man uses brain-computer interface to request beer

Originally published at: Scientific breakthrough: Man uses brain-computer interface to request beer | Boing Boing


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Idiocracy creeps ever closer.


I could nerd out to this all day! This is fascinating, and what a breakthrough for locked-in folks! Damn, I didn’t know how badly I needed a good news kind of thing today!

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This is a truly wonderful thing. Beer is great and Tool is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, but the real story here is

I just can’t imagine being unable to share and receive love in this way and to have to remain cognizant of that fact, yet unable to do anything about it. This otherwise small gesture must relieve so much pain for this family. :heart:


Damn, that’s rough. Especially given his young age. When my Father-in-Law got ALS he was at least still able to communicate with us using a tablet that had eye-tracking software to spell out words. (No implants required) These days the hardware for that is super cheap.

I wonder how he’s able to safely imbibe the food and drinks though? Even with patients whose symptoms aren’t this severe the ability to swallow is often one of the first things to go. So I guess he’s using a feeding tube and just enjoying the smells and tummy sensations from this food?


To me that seems like a waste and that the default position should be that he wants beer. He can signal when he no longer wants beer to save effort and time.


Yeah the paper mentions that he’s fed through a feeding tube. I assume there’s little taste involved, but that the association with the things still makes him feel a little better (emphasis added):

The patient also participated in social interactions and asked for entertainment (‘come tonight [to continue with the speller]’, day 203, 247, 251, 294, 295, ‘wili ch tool balbum mal laut hoerenzn’ – ‘I would like to listen to the album by Tool [a band] loud’, day 245, ‘und jetwzt ein bier’ – ‘and now a beer’, day 247 (fluids have to be inserted through the gastro-tube), 251, 253, 461. …The patient expressed his desire to have different kind of food in his tube as, ‘mixer fuer suppen mit fleisch’ – ‘instructed his wife to buy a mixer for soup with meat’ on day 247’;


Maybe someone dabs a little flavor on his tongue before putting it into the tube?

I don’t know, but that’s just a guess.

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Let’s hope it gets us closer to John Scalzi’s threeps (from the Lock In series) than to Idiocracy.


I see no reason to shame a severely disabled ALS sufferer for requesting a couple of the basic creature comforts most of us take for granted. Nobody says “we’re on our way to Idiocracy now!” just because a fully ambulatory person orders a beer.


Yeah, and he didn’t even ask for one until day 245 after the implant. That’s far more restraint than most of us have.

Edit: I just read in another news story that, sadly, this patient has been losing his ability to spell and is now mostly answering just yes/no questions. Which is sad but not unexpected. For most patients ALS progression is typically brutal and unrelenting, plus there’s always the issue with scar tissue forming around brain implants. But at least he was able to get some messages out to his family and have one last beer.


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