Will we remain human when we gradually start to incorporate implant more and more electronic devices in our bodies? Where is the limit? With a built-in pacemaker we still consider ourselves to be humans. However, there are already people walking around with brain implants that improve hearing, sight and even memory. Moreover, they can walk again or even influence their mood. These so called ‘neuroprostheses’, or electronics in the brain, are predicted to have a great future.
In the case of paralysis, such as paraplegia, we can now pick up the electrical signals in the brain and use them to control a muscle or prosthesis, thus circumventing the paralysis. Such neuroprostheses can also replace parts of the brain that have been affected by an infarct, for example. Imagine the hippocampus is severely damaged. This part of the brain plays a role inretaining information from short term to long term memory. We can replace this function either with electronic devices or with a combination of chips and nerve cells that communicate with each other. This entire module is then implanted in the brain. This may seem like science fiction, but it is already being experimented with.
We can wait for the moment than that these neuroprostheses become more powerful than our own brains. Moore’s Law predicts that between 2020 and 2030 computers will have more information processing capacity than the human brain. Up till now the focus is curing patients, but in the near future this knowledge will also be available to healthy people who are looking for something extra. For instance, a module with Chinese vocabulary. This would save a lot of drilling). You will never forget anything anymore, because the information is included than in your implanted memory prosthesis.
Naturally, all the data and extra brain capacity do not have to be implanted
. The first wireless connection to and from the brain has already been tested. BCI’s or brain computer interfaces are being reduced in cost and becoming more user friendly. With such a wireless neuroprosthesis you can be permanently connected to the world’s largest databases, fastest computers and, of course, to other people with a similar connection to their brains. Telepathy, clairvoyance and some of those other skills that we are familiar with in fairytales suddenly become reality.
© Peter van der Wel (2018)
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