October 30, 2013
Would you like to surf the Internet, make a phone call or send a text message using only your brain? Would you like to “download” the content of a 500 page book into your memory in less than a second? Would you like to have extremely advanced nanobots constantly crawling around in your body monitoring it for disease? Would you like to be able to instantly access the collective knowledge base of humanity wherever you are?
All of that may sound like science fiction, but these are technologies that some of the most powerful high tech firms in the world actually believe are achievable by the year 2020. However, with all of the potential “benefits” that such technology could bring, there is also the potential for great tyranny. Just think about it. What do you think that the governments of the world could do if almost everyone had a mind reading brain implant that was connected to the Internet? Could those implants be used to control and manipulate us? Those are frightening things to consider.
For now, most of the scientists that are working on brain implant technology do not seem to be too worried about those kinds of concerns. Instead, they are pressing ahead into realms that were once considered to be impossible.
Right now, there are approximately 100,000 people around the world that have implants in their brains. Most of those are for medical reasons.
But this is just the beginning. According to the Boston Globe, the U.S. government plans “to spend more than $70 million over five years to jump to the next level of brain implants”.
This new project is being called the Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies (SUBNETS), and the goal is to be able to monitor the “mental health” of soldiers and veterans. The following is how a recent CNET article described SUBNETS…
SUBNETS is inspired by Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS), a surgical treatment that involves implanting a brain pacemaker in the patient’s skull to interfere with brain activity to help with symptoms of diseases like epilepsy and Parkinson’s. DARPA’s device will be similar, but rather than targeting one specific symptom, it will be able to monitor and analyse data in real time and issue a specific intervention according to brain activity.
This kind of technology is being developed by the private sector as well. In fact, according to Scientific American scientists are becoming increasingly excited about how brain implants can be used to “reboot” the brains of people with depression…
Psychological depression is more than an emotional state. Good evidence for that comes from emerging new uses for a technology already widely prescribed for Parkinson’s patients. The more neurologists and surgeons learn about the aptly named deep brain stimulation, the more they are convinced that the currents from the technology’s implanted electrodes can literally reboot brain circuits involved with the mood disorder.
Would you like to have your brain “rebooted” by a chip inside your head?
And of course this is how brain implants will be marketed to the public at first. They will be sold as something that has great “health benefits”. For example, one firm has developed a brain implant that can detect and treat epileptic seizures…
The NeuroPace RNS is the first implant to listen to brain waves and autonomously decide when to apply a therapy to prevent an epileptic seizure. It was developed by a company with a staff of less than 90 people, only about 30 on the core electronic, mechanical, and software engineering teams.
A different team of researchers has discovered that it can stimulate the repair of brain tissue in rats using brain implants…
Stroke and Parkinson’s Disease patients may benefit from a controversial experiment that implanted microchips into lab rats. Scientists say the tests produced effective results in brain damage research.
Rats showed motor function in formerly damaged gray matter after a neural microchip was implanted under the rat’s skull and electrodes were transferred to the rat’s brain. Without the microchip, rats with damaged brain tissue did not have motor function. Both strokes and Parkinson’s can cause permanent neurological damage to brain tissue, so this scientific research brings hope.
Most of us won’t need brain implants for medical reasons though.
So how will they be marketed to the rest of us?
Well, what if you were told that they could give you “super powers”?
Would you want a brain implant then?
The following is a short excerpt from a recent Scientific American article…
Our world is determined by the limits of our five senses. We can’t hear pitches that are too high or low, nor can we see ultraviolet or infrared light—even though these phenomena are not fundamentally different from the sounds and sights that our ears and eyes can detect. But what if it were possible to widen our sensory boundaries beyond the physical limitations of our anatomy? In a study published recently inNature Communications, scientists used brain implants to teach rats to “see” infrared light, which they usually find invisible. The implications are tremendous: if the brain is so flexible it can learn to process novel sensory signals, people could one day feel touch through prosthetic limbs, see heat via infrared light or even develop a sixth sense for magnetic north.
And some very prominent Internet firms simply take it for granted that most of us will eventually have brain implants that connect us directly to the Internet…
Google has a plan. Eventually it wants to get into your brain. “When you think about something and don’t really know much about it, you will automatically get information,” Google CEO Larry Page said in Steven Levy’s book, “In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works and Shapes Our Lives.” “Eventually you’ll have an implant, where if you think about a fact, it will just tell you the answer.”
At this point you might be thinking that this will never happen because getting a brain implant is a very complicated and expensive procedure.
Well, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal, that is not actually true. In fact, the typical procedure is very quick and often only requires just an overnight stay in the hospital…