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 in Nature 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…
Neural implants, also called brain implants, are medical devices designed to be placed under the skull, on the surface of the brain. Often as small as an aspirin, implants use thin metal electrodes to “listen” to brain activity and in some cases to stimulate activity in the brain. Attuned to the activity between neurons, a neural implant can essentially “listen” to your brain activity and then “talk” directly to your brain.
If that prospect makes you queasy, you may be surprised to learn that the installation of a neural implant is relatively simple and fast. Under anesthesia, an incision is made in the scalp, a hole is drilled in the skull, and the device is placed on the surface of the brain. Diagnostic communication with the device can take place wirelessly. When it is not an outpatient procedure, patients typically require only an overnight stay at the hospital.
In the future, the minds of most people could potentially be connected to the Internet 24 hours a day. Imagine sending an email or answering your phone by just thinking about it. According to the New York Times, this is where we are eventually heading…
Soon, we might interact with our smartphones and computers simply by using our minds. In a couple of years, we could be turning on the lights at home just by thinking about it, or sending an e-mail from our smartphone without even pulling the device from our pocket. Farther into the future, your robot assistant will appear by your side with a glass of lemonade simply because it knows you are thirsty.
Researchers in Samsung’s Emerging Technology Lab are testing tablets that can be controlled by your brain, using a cap that resembles a ski hat studded with monitoring electrodes, the MIT Technology Review, the science and technology journal of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, reported this month.
The technology, often called a brain computer interface, was conceived to enable people with paralysis and other disabilities to interact with computers or control robotic arms, all by simply thinking about such actions. Before long, these technologies could well be in consumer electronics, too.
So how far away is such technology?
According to a Computer World UK article, Intel believes that they will have Internet-connected brain implants in people’s heads by the year 2020…
By the year 2020, you won’t need a keyboard and mouse to control your computer, say Intel researchers. Instead, users will open documents and surf the web using nothing more than their brain waves.
Scientists at Intel’s research lab in Pittsburgh are working to find ways to read and harness human brain waves so they can be used to operate computers, television sets and cell phones. The brain waves would be harnessed with Intel-developed sensors implanted in people’s brains.
The scientists say the plan is not a scene from a sci-fi movie, Big Brother won’t be planting chips in your brain against your will. Researchers expect that consumers will want the freedom they will gain by using the implant.
And that would only be the tip of the iceberg. Futurist Ray Kurzweil is actually convinced that we will all eventually have hordes of nanobots running around our bodies monitoring our health and looking for disease…
‘Bridge two (is) the biotechnology revolution, where we can reprogram biology away from disease.
‘And that is not the end-all either.
‘Bridge three is to go beyond biology, to the nanotechnology revolution.
‘At that point we can have little robots, sometimes called nanobots, that augment your immune system.
‘We can create an immune system that recognizes all disease, and if a new disease emerged, it could be reprogrammed to deal with new pathogens.’
Such robots, according to Kurzweil, will help fight diseases, improve health and allow people to remain active for longer.
Are you ready for this kind of a future?
These technologies are being developed right now, and they will be enthusiastically adopted by a large segment of the general public.
At some point in the future, having a brain implant may be as common as it is to use a smart phone today.
And of course the mainstream media will be telling all of us how wonderful it is to have a brain implant. If you doubt this, just check out the following NBC News report where we are all told that we can expect to have microchip implants by the year 2017…
So are you ready for this brave new world?
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