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IEET > Rights > PostGender > Life > Enablement > Implants > Health > Vision > Futurism > Contributors > Dick Pelletier

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Brain enhancements will play a major role in determining the future


Dick Pelletier
Dick Pelletier
Ethical Technology

Posted: Jan 26, 2013

My brain contains approximately 100 billion neurons, each connecting to other nerve cells through synapses. These interactions process signals entering the nervous system, and then produce output responses that stimulate my bodily functions, everything from thinking to walking to kissing.

I compare this to a massive parallel information processing system, similar to a quantum computer. However, if that computer should break down, my life and all its memories could disappear forever.   Therefore, many forward-thinking scientists are looking into solutions that would strengthen the brain by reinforcing its neurons with non-biological neurons made from carbon nanotubes.

These new artificial neurons would not only act as electrical bypass circuitry, giving patients a ‘fail-safe’ system should their brain become damaged, but would also enhance performance of healthy cells, providing ‘superhuman’ brain functions. Thoughts could be processed millions of times faster.

However, two hurdles must be resolved before this futuristic dream can become reality. First, researchers must unravel the mysteries of human consciousness, which experts define as tracking the quintillions of interactions between neurons that give rise to human thoughts and actions. This will require more powerful computing methods – quantum computers – predicted to arrive by mid-2020s.

Second, molecular nanotechnology must be developed to the point where neuron replacement and modification technologies become routine medical therapies.   Positive futurists believe that carbon nanotube-based circuitry will one day enable brain-machine interfaces, which would lead to new neuroprosthetics that can process sight, sound, smell and motion. Such circuits could for instance, veto epileptic attacks before they occur, eliminate all forms of mental disease, perform spinal bypasses around injuries, and repair or enhance normal cognitive functions.

Though many challenges remain before this dream becomes reality, the potential is clear: healing brain diseases, supercharging the intellect of healthy brains and eventually building a human-machine interface that could download super-computer computational abilities directly into our human brains.

Most experts consider the human brain the most complex system in the Universe, however, I believe that this organ will one day be clearly understood and will play a major role in guiding us into what promises to become a truly awesome brain enhancement future. Comments welcome.


Dick Pelletier is a weekly columnist who writes about future science and technologies for numerous publications. He's also appeared on various TV shows, and he blogs at Immortaltech.
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COMMENTS


Dispense with your futile resistance, puny meatsacs; assimilation into the borg shall proceed apace.





“... enhance normal cognitive functions”—I immediately thought “...  replace normal cognitive functions”.  Might I not like that they are replaced with?  Will I notice?  Might I be missing some of the nuance of which I was capable before?  That the future enhanced brain may be more complex doesn’t necessarily mean it will bee preferable—at least not subjectively.





@Kennita,

Brain enhancement referred to in this opinion piece cannot happen until much more is known about human consciousness. What is the mysterious trait that controls so much of our lives?

In addition, molecular nanotechnology must be developed to provide the non-biological neuron replacement materials – probably carbon nanotubes – that because of their tiny size, would allow a substantial increase in number of neurons. This increase would allow much faster processing of thoughts, enabling us to simulate hundreds of alternate choices in a split second of decision-making.

Finally, before anyone would opt to undergo a brain enhancement, the repercussions would need to be clearly understood. We definitely would not want to become a ‘Frankenstein’ character.

Comments welcome.





This is without doubt the key technology that will transform all others.

If the tech can be made to work without destroying our ephemeral, fragile consiousness and functionally inrease our general intelligence then this will pull us out of the tribal-instinctual morass we are all currently wading through with our intellects mostly unawares.





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