Installation Complete

What if you could download information directly to your brain instead of interfacing with phones, computers, and televisions? What if you could install a brain implant that would allow you to speak perfect Chinese, as in Neuromancer? What if you could buy a “brain pal,” as in John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War, and immediately possess the skills necessary to defeat an opponent in kung fu?

Sure, it might look funny, but if you had a jack in the back of your head Matrix-style, there’d be no end to the information you could possess. How close are we to enhancing our knowledge and skills by downloading information or from a neural plug-in?

Are we really on the verge of never having to study for tests again?

Humans have increased their brainpower since the dawn of man. Gene mutations allow our brains to change to adapt to mental and physical challenges, as well as physical, social, and cultural environments. Because of the brain’s ability to change, scientists describe it as “plastic.”

The brain of the future could be described as “superplastic.”

Cognitive enhancements are nothing new. Prescription medication designed to treat everything from Alzheimer’s to ADD increase focus, recall, and impulse control. There is currently a debate brewing about whether cognitive enhancements are good, right, fair, etc—some people compare them to steroid use in athletics.

It’s about to become even more complicated: Enter technology.

Brain enhancements to help people with conditions such as autism and blindness have been in the works for some time. Neural implants designed to help people speak through computers without typing are also in the works. Paralyzed people can interface with computer screens, televisions, and light switches via BrainGate technology, which was developed by a neuroscientist at Brown University. Implants that stimulate neural nerves could augment sensory perception, recognition, and recall. Although these technologies are being developed largely to help the disabled, anyone will access to these technologies could conceivably benefit and essentially receive a brain boost.

Some people worry that neural enhancements will begin a trend toward the “designer” brain. Theoretically, people with money and access could gain advantage over everyone else because they could boost their brains’ capabilities with cognitive enhancers. They also wouldn’t have to learn or assimilate information–they could simply import existing information. Some futurists worry that neural enhancements will divide the human race. If humans’ obsession with designer products is any indication, those futurists might not be wrong.

Neural enhancements are also one aspect of the singularity predicted by futurist Ray Kurzweil, who believes that humans will merge with machines by 2045.

Cognitive enhancements are coming (though not soon enough to save you from the next math test). What information will you download first? What clip-ons and plug-ins will you buy for your brain? Or will you be a neural purist, relying only on the brain you were born with?

To borg or not to borg, that is the question.

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7 Responses to Installation Complete

  1. Spanky says:

    “What information will you download first? What clip-ons and plug-ins will you buy for your brain?” :
    Why, the Kama Sutra, of course.

  2. Jonathan Rock says:

    How would you know when to hop on board. Who wants to come out of risky iBrain surgery recovery two weeks before the iBrain G4 comes out?

    Oh man, you still have USB 3.0 on your noggin? Good luck finding adapter plugs.

  3. Batou says:

    I think I’d go slowly, not make any sudden, major changes. I’d only get augmentations that would enhance what I have. If a two way transfer augmentation were available, I probably wouldn’t do it. I’m more than happy to use a keyboard, and I wouldn’t want to get ghost-hacked, like in ghost in the shell. However, the idea of being able to control something directly from my head ( say a machine, or iron-man suit. It’s the future, after all. ) really suits me. I suppose it depends, would it be direct access, or a front end for my brain that I would use to interact with other brains and computers?

  4. Brainy guy says:

    Ok, serious ? what after that ? brain-hackers -.- NO i want to keep MY brain

  5. Dennis says:

    It is already here! Google glasses is the first version of what may develop into something very similar to the Brainpal. Not impossible to see the transition Glasses -> Lenses -> Optic nerve -> Brain.

  6. Seriously though, I am heading straight for this website
    to print out the instructions to initiate lucid dreaming.

    What are you up to next book wise or projects wise and any links you’d like to share with us.
    because you have been programmed liked that, you
    will have to build up the confidence by bringing your body and mind in report with each
    other.

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