Brain Implants- Heralding a New Future
What would you give for a chip implanted directly in your head which will give you instant Internet access? Or for a device that's allowed information to be downloaded directly in your brain? Or for an interface which immediately Googled a clearly articulated thought and summarised it in your mind? Or maybe a chip implanted by an evil mastermind in the heads' of the entire world to put...
A man in California, Erik Sorto, was paralysed from the neck down in a car accident. He can now use a brain implant to do all guys chores. He does not lead the life of an invalid anymore. Brain chips are being successfully used to treat Parkinsonism, depression and post traumatic stress disorder. Maybe soon small chips can be implanted to keep whole diseases at bay.
Brain implants are devices instilled in the brain cortex which decode thoughts and electrical impulses in the brain cells and use them to perform the desired actions. In simpler terms, it is a radio in the head which catches the thoughts of a particular frequency and then broadcasts them to a receiver paved externally for action. These implants can also increase or decrease activity in nerve cells and improve mental function by causing selective firing of nerve cells.
Today, effective brain machine interfaces have to be wired directly into the brain to pick up signals emanating from nerve cells. But we have yet to discover how to make devices that listen to the same brain cells for long. There is the mechanical problem- the brain sloshes around inside the skull every time you move, the implant slips by a nanometer, and poof goes all transmission. Then there is the biological problem- the implant should be biocompatible so that the body accepts it as its own. It must also be small enough to fit inside the head and energy efficient enough to make recharging a non issue.
These obstacles seem Goliathan but look suspiciously like the ones that cell phone manufactures faced when we were stuck with phones the size of shoeboxes. For now, guiding a robot arm is cumbersome and laborious, like steering an out of alignment car. Even our best neuroscientists cannot claim to know how the human brain does most of its basic functions. We get the gist of what is going on but we are far from understanding the details.
For millions of patients, neural implants could be absolutely transformative.
We know something like this can be done, but the real question is how and when? How many advances in science will we need? How many Nobel Prizes in molecular science, chemistry and biology will it take? It is impossible to predict. But then again, it is not the business of the future to be predictable or sugarcoated.
But as a safe bet, by the end of this century and quite possibly much sooner, every input device will become obsolete. Forget J. A. R. V. I. S., Ironman's A. I. friend, by the end of the century, many of us will be wired directly into the cloud from brain to toe.
Maybe, then, you will be able to download this article directly in your brain.