While it is becoming universally acknowledged that we should take better care of our brains, there exists a much more radical element to developing brain technology. It’s one that could see the need to care for our brains severely diminish, and according to some futurists this technology could entirely replace the brain.
Many of us have certainly had thoughts along the lines of, ‘Wouldn’t it be easier if the knowledge of the internet was connected to my brain?’
Indeed brain implants, and the idea of replacing or uploading our brains with computer chips, are not as far-fetched as they sound. Brain pacemakers have been used since 1997 to help those suffering from diseases, while cochlear implants have been used in restoring hearing. Neural implants offer the potential to be used for everything from medical devices to allowing us to increase our knowledge.
Neil Harbisson claimed to the be the world’s first cyborg in 2012 after he installed an ‘electronic eye’ which, as a solution to achromatopsia that makes him colour blind, helped him to hear colours rather than see them.
The technology, which Harbisson has called an “extension of his brain”, detects colour frequencies and sends it to a chip implanted in the back of his head.
“So, when I started to dream in colour is when I felt that the software and my brain had united, because in my dreams, it was my brain creating electronic sounds. It wasn’t the software, so that’s when I started to feel like a cyborg,” Harbisson said at a TED talk in 2012.
“It’s when I started to feel that the cybernetic device was no longer a device. It had become a part of my body, an extension of my senses, and after some time, it even became a part of my official image.”
Harbisson is proof that technologies can be implanted into our brain and made to work to enhance our lives. However there is still the potential to take the brain to a new level and expand its ability.
Ray Kurzweil, leading futurist and director of engineering at Google, has said that we will be able to upload out entire brains to computers by 2045. A computer chip by IBM, which has been heralded as the “most brain-like” chip to date, includes one million artificial neurons, proving that computing power is getting closer to the natural ability of the brain.
“We’re going to have million of virtual environments to explore that we’re going to literally expand our brains,” Kurzweil said before the Importality by 2045 conference.
“Right now we only have 300 million patterns organised in a grand hierarchy that we create ourselves. But we could make that 300 billion or 300 trillion.
“The last time we expanded it with the frontal cortex we created language and art and science. Just think of the qualitative leaps we can’t even imagine today when we expand our near cortex again.”
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