"All we're doing is picking up a little tiny bit of neural activity and having the patient move the cursor around," Kennedy says. "It's different than picking up a thought. If thought is a whole big football field, we're just picking out two blades of grass."
Perhaps thoughts don't originate in the brain. The brain carries them, but might they come from somewhere else, something that makes a person who he or she is, a soul of sorts?
"It's a big philosophical question," Kennedy says. "People are working on that. Is there a separate mind from the brain? Some people say the brain is the mind."
Unraveling that mystery may be the answer to one of mankind's most elusive dreams: to live forever. If the brain and the mind are the same, then the brain might record the mind on a computer.
"Some philosophers tend to think of ourselves, our identities, as being our memories and some combination of our physical comportment," McGee points out. With cloning all but accomplished, that leaves BCI to complete the eternity equation.
"If at some point in the future we're be able to upload our memories onto a chip, and they say that that will be possible in about 30 years," McGee says, "then if that chip were implanted in my clone, I could achieve a kind of immortality."
But what kind of immortality would that be? With computers taking nature's place, the results might be as grotesque as only science fiction writers have imagined.
"We have created a man who is one single, large, complex computer terminal," Michael Crichton wrote in his 1972 novel, The Terminal Man. "The patient is a read-out device for the new computer, and he is as helpless to control the readout as a TV screen is helpless to control the information presented on it."
Kennedy, who recently traveled home to Ireland to visit 1,000-year-old ruins on the country's rugged outer islands, says he has a fascination with man's longevity. "For someone who thinks so much about the future, I do love the past."
But he'd rather not experience both.
"I wouldn't want to live forever," Kennedy says. "Would you?" [email protected]