Innovative concepts such as installing a chip in our heads that can fix health issues are being talked about. Even increasing our brainpower is a likely possibility. The right implant in your brain can enhance your senses and cause you to be a better driver. A brain implant also can help you remember every word in any meeting or conference that you attend. The future of brain implants holds many advantageous possibilities for us in the days ahead.
A future that takes advantage of health implants is what Tesla CEO Elon Musk is envisioning. He announced the launching of his new company, Neuralink, recently. This new company, according to the SpaceX owner, will be focused on the merging of the human brain with computers. Musk says we have to keep in step with artificial intelligence, which is getting smarter each day, by the implantation of a sci-fi machine interface that he calls a “neural lace.” He warns that under AI’s rate of advancement, humans will be far behind in comparison. There will come a point in time when people will be just like any house pet, like a cat, compared to AI.
For this reason, many scientists and researchers have been developing chips that can enhance the functions of the brain. An American team of neuroscientists at MIT is making this a reality. In 2013, it was reported that this team has been working on a device that will restore memory by using a microchip. By 2015, these MIT scientists expected to try it on volunteer human subjects and if successful, will be made available to the public within 5 to 10 years. Ted Berger, a professor at the University of Southern California Biomedical Engineering said that he might not benefit from this technology, but his kids will.
Harvard Medical School is also testing a brain implant that could restore the vision of the blind. The researchers involved in this project encountered a problem in this procedure. Previous trials became worthless because scar tissues formed and degraded the brain cells’ electrical connections, but they began trials that are designed to solve this problem. A new implant was developed that will relay data into the brain without the scarring issues. The implant will be placed beneath the skull, but will rest on the brain surface instead of penetrating it. This implant is designed to stimulate the visual cortex and see if it will develop the activity that is typically triggered by the signals coming to the eyes.
Other researchers are now thinking how these technologies can be used to improve cognitive skills. There is the process of transcendent direct current stimulation, a non-invasive strategy that works by sending electrical signals through the scalp. These methods can enhance memory and learning skills, said some scientists, but how the surgical and non-surgical procedures can become outpatient processes is still unclear. Elon Musk said he believes they will become automated, like laser eye surgery.
Whatever chip or brain implant that will be used in the future, they need to be more advanced than those being currently tried and tested. The closest thing available to this ability are supplements offered by Neurohacker ventures that act as smart drugs to enhance your cognitive ability. Today, brain implants look like they are just interfaces between brain and computers.
These interfaces use pads with several electrodes that are plugged into the brain. It looks like a hairbrush, says Kevin Warwick, an emeritus cybernetics professor of Coventry University in the UK. He says that they may adapt this design that will enable implants to be placed in various areas underneath the skull. At first, it would be several implants, says Paul Zehr, of the University of Victoria in Canada. This neuroscientist speculated that the implants may eventually be as small as a smart watch.
By Kevin Faber
Kevin Faber is the CEO of Silver Summit Capital. He graduated from UC Davis with a B.A. in Business/Managerial Economics. In his free time, Kevin is usually watching basketball or kicking back and reading a good book.
Follow him on Twitter: @faber28kevin