|Courtesy of BBC website|
An item on the BBC newsite caught my attention this morning. Scientists are working on methods of analysing a patient's brain activity and, via a computer model, using the patient's brain signals to audibly reconstruct the words they are thinking of. It's all in very early stages, but long-term has amazing potential for helping people who are unable to communicate because they have, for example, locked-in syndrome. In other words, to quote the BBC article, "...the benefits of such devices could be transformative, said Mindy McCumber, a speech-language pathologist at Florida Hospital in Orlando. 'As a therapist, I can see potential implications for the restoration of communication for a wide range of disorders,' she told BBC News. 'The development of direct neuro-control over virtual or physical devices would revolutionise augmentative and alternative communication, and improve quality of life immensely for those who suffer from impaired communication skills or means.' "
For a lay person like me, this is all astounding. It's sci-fi come to life. I'm in awe of those who are clever enough to do this stuff!
I also admire the positive ends towards which they are using their talents. Our human intellect, our creative ability and our scientific expertise are astounding gifts from God, but our free will means we can use them as we wish. Call me naive or simple, but it seems to me that in the final analysis we can choose to use our abilities constructively or destructively. Humanity's history is a story of that choice made again and again through the millennia. We can expend time, effort and resources on improving quality of life or we can develop and engage in legal ways to end it (whether by euthanasia, warfare or some other way of doing violence to the dignity of the human person...).
There's a long way to go before research of this type is viable, and in the same way it is a long, hard and demanding path to hang on in there with someone who is suffering badly, especially if we are having to work hard to convince them that it's worth carrying on. But isn't it ultimately the choice between life and death, between hope and despair, between belief and meaninglessness? In fact, between two visions of our stature and worth as human beings?
Let's use our human talents to support our belief in life. It's worth not giving up on.
See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction... This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, that you and your children may live... (Deuteronomy 30: 15,19)