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Brain Implants: Can they give us Superhuman capabilities?

Nuzhat Sheikh Written by Nuzhat Sheikh · 4 min read>
Brain Implants

What does it take to be a mastermind? Eating a pill, almonds or walnuts that enhances our brain capabilities. All these ‘totkay or remedies’ definitely haven’t made you capable enough to work on par with the efficiency of a machine. Scientists and engineers are working on cutting-edge technologies that will help in enhancing the functioning and memory of brain.

Brain Implants

In simple terms, we define them as neural implants that have been around for three decades in forms of cochlear implants used among hearing impaired and visionary lost people. Much of the research work in medical and clinical fields is focused on treating different forms of cognitive diseases like Parkinson. But some clever minds have taken it to another interesting level of creating interfaces between neural systems and computer chips that we call a brain-computer interface. The prosthetic that we use for treatment purpose could be turned to enhancement of mind. The day is not far for a race of superhuman to arrive.

What superpowers can they give you?

The truth is that the superpowers that a futuristic brain implant would give are beyond the level of an ordinary person’s aptitude. For now, following are the facts we managed to compile in a nutshell.

  • Ability to see in the dark.
  • To hear a conversation in a crowded place or across the room.
  • Sight that can zoom in and out thing at a distance far.
  • Make you better at navigation and mathematics
  • You can download skills like in “The Matrix”
  • Enhance energy and focus, no need for drugs and stimulants.
  • Cure depression and mood swings.
  • Restoration of the damaged memories.
  • Machines can be controlled using mind.
  • To search Web and translate languages.

Giant companies like Google and Intel show significant concerns on BRAIN science research initiatives. Google is aware of a threat that will make Google glass less demanding. By the year 2020, we’ll be connected to internet with a chip in the head. Who will want to have a projection on mind when one can simply Web search using the device wired inside the brain to directly interpret all the information required, without having to type or touch screen for input. Nobody is too lazy to think of course, the neural network transmit signals to device that stimulates it to give results.
As for Intel.Co, it would be a level of advancement in their wearable tech lead presented earlier this year at CES 2014. Instead of selling chips to the makers of phones and laptops that launch new versions every once in a while, the computer chips will be inserted inside a human skull. It can store and retrieve data, manipulate files and information, communicate with other devices without articulating commands. The memory chip inside your brain’s hippocampus can enhance the memory incredibly, giving the sense of being genuinely intellectual.

Computer V/S Human

This age-long debate will turn out to be a logical outcome, when a human would finally be equipped with a computer chip. This wondrous device not only helps you in calculating but stimulates your neural system to work faster. We are talking about a range of processors coming for humans not for computers. Can this really happen? Like every system it does require charging and stimulation. Would we electrically charge brain?

Electrical stimulation can give a cognitive boost and according to one such research, some volunteers allowed scientists to stimulate their minds with mild currents. The results were incredible, demonstrating a contrast between those whose minds were not electrically stimulated; they did not have any improvement in solving arithmetic operations, whereas the volunteers learnt five times faster. This makes sense, that’s why the mentally impaired people have shocks.
Does it pose a threat to morality?
Aside from sceptical concerns, it does have a severe threat to humanity. Yes, we’ve watched warfare movies, the grimmest part occurs when the bad guys take over the force and the technology is utilized wickedly by some savage authorities. The recent movie “The Machine” is one suitable example I can place here. Nevertheless, that doesn’t put an end to the progress and developments. So, the materialization of superhumans’ battle is inevitable in the interval we get a hold on some shrewd implants.
On the other intriguing side, we find ways to enhance our alertness, focus, energy and memory. In some countries, children are given special memory enhancing pills by their parents before an exam. Who doesn’t want good grades and be quick enough to solve mathematics. Every problem in today’s world is solved with cutting-edge technologies. Once consummated in the market, the implants would be used by both kinds of people.
After all, “Necessity is the mother of invention” and it surpasses the morals of humankind.

How likely are we to adopt this technology?

Most people are afraid to drill a hole in the skull to get the neuroprosthetic implanted and the idea of electrodes wired up inside the brain seems horrible.
The case is similar to what was a decade ago, with surgical application on human body. Some people were fraught with anxiety to have laser treatments on eye retina, restructuring face and altering different body parts. Did that put the technology to trash? No. Ever increasing number of people use it today. Promoted with the inclination to treat people with birth disabilities the surgical procedures widely take place on the beauty related issues of models.

In this decade, everything is replaced with a machine. The day is not far when robots will replace human. So many times I hear people complaining about technology engaging people more everyday and separating them from real world and people. How wonderful it would be, if we’re able to communicate with another person without uttering a word, wirelessly in thoughts, when the robot is actually inside our brain. Or may be we can read minds of other people around.

It’s not only cool but reminds me of two characters from a famous serial ‘Shaka Laka Boom Boom’ where Shaan and Sanju used to send messages to one another, afar in thoughts. Moreover, our favorite “Twilight” series in which vampires had a variety of superpowers. The most fascinating I find was Edward’s ability to read minds of people around him; except dear Bella. (He might need a chip to read the mind of his love.)
I allow you to criticize that above two examples are not sci-fi rather fictious. Believe it or not, everything that was once magical and sci-fi has now turned into more than a reality. We’ve adopted technology as lifestyle.

Mechanically speaking, it would be the dare-devil person who’ll want to acquire these neuroprosthetics to enhance his brain functionality and use it as a replacement for smartphone. The faint-hearted would still discourage the idea.

Hurdles in the path

Brain, as every other organ, slides around when there’s a movement of body by which even a millimeter shift of the implant will make it ineffective. Besides this mechanical problem, another part of the problem is biological. To avoid any immune reaction, the implant must be non toxic and small enough to be enclosed within the skull; graphene may be of some help in this. The energy-efficiency is one of the major problems to overcome; as it definitely needs to be recharged perhaps by placing inducting coils at scalp.

But brilliant minds are not scared of the apparent insurmountable challenges. Some engineers are working on wireless brain interfaces like neutral micro-sensors which are bio-compatible and one-tenth of a millimeter (thin as hair) that could convert electrical signals into ultrasound so it’d be read outside the brain.

The issue is not whether we accomplish it or not but when and how. Looking back at stone-age many were afraid of change and adventure, so they preferred to sit-back while the curious natured and creative minds have brought us to the age of smartphones. Some would criticize that existing technologies are the results of human brain capabilities. Why create a mess inside with sensors and wires? However, this will not cease the flow of innovation in the bloodstream of far-sighted individuals. So, how far are we from the era of Smarthumans?

Written by Nuzhat Sheikh
An Engineering student who wants to explore Universe. She'd travelled to Mars 'in her fantasy'. Avid reader and researcher, She's a keen knowledge-seeker. You'll find her helpful. Follow her @NutzNb at twitter. Profile