Nanorays speaking to the brain
To return to nanotechnology, I want to explore how we will augment our own minds using nanotechnology. At this time, crude experiments using surgery are able to implant sensors onto the surface of a human brain and extract signals to control the cursor of a computer. We would like to go further and connect additional memory, add functionality and enable a visual and auditory connection to the Internet. How else would we do that without using nanotechnology?
If your spine is damaged at the neck, and you are confined to a bed for the rest of your life, then brain surgery is a risky, but important, thing to do. For the rest of us, it goes too far mearly to get a better internet connection.
Nanotechnology will allow us to add hardware to our brains without the expense and danger of brain surgery. Of course we will still be taking a risk – perhaps a large one in the early years of augmentation.
One suggestion I’ve heard but don’t remember who said it, is to slowly replace brain cells one by one with a chunk of hardware much smaller than the original brain cell. The hardware would simulate all the functions of a brain neuron. If we can come up with a safe replacement module that runs off the chemical energy in the blood and has a predicted lifetime greater than 20 years then it will be time to start the conversion. Take a pill each day to supply the hardware to your body and let the nanorobots install them over a six month period, one brain cell at a time. Six months later, you would never know any thing had changed yet you would be running on a hardware platform with amazing capability.
It could run a million times faster than your old biological brain. It would have room for a thousand times more memory. And it would be your own brain. Not a computer in the sense of the thing on your desk, but an exact copy of the structure and personality that existed before the conversion. And it would have an operating system that would allow you to control the speed of processing. Jump it from the biological 100 millisecond response time to something like 50 nanoseconds. That is 20 million times faster.
What that means is that for a short period ( limited, most likely, by the power dissipation limits of your blood and skull) you could slow the world down by a factor of 20 million. Your perceptions speed up but ordinary physics will limit how fast your body can move so, to you, the world slows down as your brain speeds up. But think about what you could do in an emergency. You would have time to think, to plan for hours during the first tenth of a second. And you could slow your brain down in small steps to ramp the world activity back up to a rate where you can interact with the world and accomplish a goal.
Since the hardware brain cells are smaller than the organic version, there’s a lot of room left over. That allows the nanorobots to install additional cells that can be added as needed for new memory, new skills, new interfaces – like that wireless internet. Also, it allows backup units to replace a failing unit with little or no impact on the overall memory or awareness.
The hardware is almost indestructible compared to the organic brain. Say an augmented person is involved in an accident and dies. The body may be a total loss, but the brain could be in perfect condition. An organic brain dies about three minutes after the heart stops. These hardware brains only turn off until they get a new power supply. All memories are intact. The brain is removed from the dead body. An organic body is regrown without a brain and the hardware brain is installed in the clone. It boots up as soon as the blood supply brings a new supply of energy. The person wakes up and learns to use the slightly different body.
In fact when hardware brains are common, the idea of life extension is a sure thing. Trade in your old body and get a new version that looks just like your old one but comes with all the latest mods. Things like intelligent immune systems, diamond reinforced bones, skin art ala a chameleon or cuttlefish, sensors that did not come with the original, and the list goes on.
One main issue is that a lot of people will see this as a distortion of what is human. And will not want to associate with the “cybogs” who will be seen as evil. It is good that you can have a fully hardware based brain that is installed in a perfectly human body. Who can tell without an X-ray?
29 Responses to “Brain Augmentation via nano robots”
- Jake Says:
January 4th, 2007 at 5:01 pm What an amazing blog.
I just found it today and am very impressed by the thought and research that you have put into your posts. I will continue to visit.
- john2004 Says:
January 4th, 2007 at 7:23 pm Jake,
Thank you ! I’m very pleased that this looks like a good start. I do care a LOT about this subject and it just seems natural to speculate on how it will work out. Feel free to disagree if anything seems too far out. I’m interested in constructive critisism.
- Mike Says:
November 5th, 2007 at 5:13 pm if my father died i would like to see him brought back simply by giving him a new body but at the same time its unethical. the world would become overcrowded. wouldnt an emp blast destroy theese cells? or any other kind of electronics interfear with their working? WIFI? thinking of this ahckers could get into your brain and do all sorts. for instince.. Bush gets an augmentation (which he needs… badly) and hackers get into his brain and nuke the world. what now? please set me wrong and tell me that my fears are just fears because i know this technology is the next revoloution. ps. if the operating systems are anything like Windows then were doomed from the start. -Mike, please reply and put me straight
- jason Says:
January 28th, 2008 at 6:05 pm What you’re saying is absolutely ridiculous. I am an advocate of scientific and technological advancement. As a matter of fact, I think we’ve been at a stand still for quite a while; and find nanorobotics quite interesting as well as brain augmentation. But telling people that this will or may lead to them changing their bodies when they die will not only freak them out, it will raise many questions from politicians and the whole public in general. If you are really interested in advancing this field, I suggest you take a more realistic approach and use your assets and efforts in a more productive way.
- John Burch Says:
February 9th, 2008 at 2:23 am Jason, you call them as you see them and I will do the same. That said, I see no good reason to change anything I said. I hear that you are concerned about causing fear or misunderstanding in the public mind. I do not personally value having a discussion that is limited by that concern. Perhaps that is a poor choice on my part.
- John Burch Says:
February 9th, 2008 at 2:35 am Mike,
Sorry to not reply till now, too busy to stay current. It does seem unethical to over populate the world by never dieing. But if we could actually implement such a technology, then space travel and recycling would be at used in very effective ways. That tells me the world could handle a lot more people if we did not live off the natural resources of the Earth but knew how to reuse our trash and get our energy from the sun.
As to the vulnerability of the nanocell brain to EMF, yes, it would be vulnerable. I think anything based on dry electrical conductivity would be affected. We are based on ion solutions at the moment and that does not cause electrical melting of components. But a brain based on metallic conductivity or semi-conductor conductivity can build up voltages that deposit too much energy in small places when the voltages discharge. I guess ions solutions don’t build up large voltages unless you are an electrical eel.
Besides, you want to live forever?
- David Says:
June 10th, 2008 at 5:56 pm John: Thanks for such an interesting blog. I am so interested in the future of nanotech, I am buying stock of any company that is involved in it. However, I never considered the brain being augmented because I thought that it is way too complicated. If what you described could be done to the human brain, the rest of the human body would be very simple to augment, and someone would never need a new body, assuming he had enough nano bots. Let’s also not forget that nano tech promises to make solar power a very viable option. nano bots could carry a solar cell to an exposed part of the of the surface of the skin and gain all the power needed for whatever purpose. Consider also the valuable augmented employee: how much sleep would someone with an augmented brain need? How fast could someone like that read?
- John Burch Says:
June 10th, 2008 at 10:29 pm David,
Certainly a lot of frontier in that direction. If nano becomes mature and we are still around to enjoy it, I think a lot of those things will happen. Hard to imagine what the place will look like in a hundred years or more.
- Zeb Says:
July 17th, 2008 at 8:35 pm David,
Interesting thoughts. I have noticed that in Boston, MA it is currently not politically correct to conduct research for things that don’t have new product or military applications on the nanotech side. As far as biotechnology (so called “life sciences” is concerned it is very unpopular to suggest that your company or research program strives to move beyond curing diseases. This is why we haven’t heard about these things or been given the opportunity to invest.
If you know of anyone who would invest in the formation of a team to develop brain augmentation technologies let me know! Given 3 months and a modest budget I could have something online (would love to).
- John Burch Says:
July 18th, 2008 at 12:58 pm David,
I suspect the brain augmentation will creep in under the radar because internet access ( direct, that is) will drive everything in about 10 years.
Guess that gives me an idea for something to write, so I better use it.
- dylan Says:
November 20th, 2008 at 11:49 am If the brain is made up of hardware insted of organic compunds, the person may seem to act exactly the same, but is it really them? or and exact copy of them. In essence the person is dead, and the hardware is merely an exact copy of them.
- John Burch Says:
November 20th, 2008 at 5:27 pm Hey Dylan,
You’ve touched on a big question that may remain forever beyond the bounds of rational discussion. Specifically, who are you and how do you know? It could be said that “you” are running on biological hardware at the moment and if that hardware were to be changed to silicon based electronics, there might not be a lot of difference other than the fact that you would run a lot faster. Is an exact copy of a person the same as the real thing? What makes a person a real thing? The soul? That is hard to quantify and if you can’t quantify or define the terms unambiguously, it makes little sense to debate the comparison.
Personally, I think that it would be an almost exact copy and no one would be the wiser. I ( the copy ) would not know the difference. A loved one could not tell the difference if the copy was good enough. So who is going to be the judge that it is really me? I don’t see anyone left to be the judge.
Even more interesting, if you copy a mind into a computer and the original biological person is still alive, do you have two of the same person now? Who is real? I say it makes no difference and you now do have two copies of the same person. Socially interesting, but technically no more interesting than copying a CD.
We are the dance of molecules – we are not the molecules. Kill us and the molecules just rearrange themselves a bit. But the dance stops dead. So copy the dance to another set of molecules and you will have two people who are identical. Are they the same person? No, the dance is the same for a bit, but it’s in two different places, so it’s two different people who are very much alike.
- Ivan Says:
January 7th, 2009 at 6:44 am Very interesting, I myself am fascinated with the idea of nanotechnology the mere concept of it is enthralling it could be used to cure many diseases among other things.
I became interested nanotech many years ago and still crave for it to be researched at a greater leave, not just for the medical side of things but also for things like improved muscle and bone structure to make somebody stronger and also faster.
The thought that something like a needle or a pill could do such a thing to improve an individual its well mind blowing, yes I know that such technology is many year away yet and the idea of some sort of bioelectrical brain is probably not as close as what John has mentioned but it still is in the cards.
Also the idea of whether it is ethical is stupid mention, it is an advance in technology nothing more and yes some areas of nano augmentation could be used for unethical things but the advance in this technology is not unethical it could be the greatest thing for humanity if properly controlled.
- Zion Says:
March 29th, 2009 at 10:03 pm Hello John,
This is a most interesting topic as it is one topic that is not pollitically correct at this present time (as Zeb has touched on). In saying this I do have a question:-
1) If nano technology was to get the go ahead with augmentation into the human body, would you start with the brain(myself i would assume that you would start your research with something that isn’t as dangerous eg, limbs, as this wont be a direct change to thought processes, what are your thoughts?
2) I would be willing to go into the first trials if it was limbs or maybe my heart but, how many other people out there would be willing to do it, I mean something not as complex like a normal vitamin c pill takes at least 1000 possitive clinical human trials, imagine how many it would take for augmentation.
Thank you for being open minded as this day and age it is all about conformity.
- Zion Says:
March 29th, 2009 at 11:47 pm One More quick question?
What would stop the military from from using this kind of technology and also the police and government would need some from of control over people who can think faster and all of the other bonuses that would come, would this just become the same as we have now just better living conditions or would it just make another cause and effect scenario where people become stronger faster and greedy police and military become faster stronger smarter and basically a rebellion is born?
maybe it is because I am still young but if someone can answer this I would greatly appreciate any feedback.
- John Burch Says:
March 30th, 2009 at 11:42 am Zion,
Thanks for the good questions.
No, I would think that the brain augmentation would be held up until we really understood the brain a lot more and the body repair was working great. The brain is who we really are and we don’t want to screw with that at first. Fix our back, our eyes, our cancer, our mechanical problems and then worry about the brain. Of course there is a powerful force that will try to connect our electronic tech toys to our brain as fast as possible.
I do worry about human animals trying to run a powerful system, machine or government. The only thing that has saved our ass so far is that power has not been concentrated as much as it will in the future. We really need to get a handle on how to run society without letting stupid bozos with too much personal or political power screw it up because they are emotionally driven to be the top dog ( or monkey in this case ). We really need to talk about limits on personal power. In my opinion, that is the bomb waiting to blow us up. Nano just makes it more powerful.
So far we have been very lucky.
- Zion Says:
March 30th, 2009 at 5:09 pm Thank you for a quick reply,
One more question if i may,
What would start the ball rolling, I can’t wait to see this technology but, would you think that human rights and similar parties would be all over it and in turn will cause people to seek backyard operators.
I have a very open mind so if you don’t mind me asking your thoughts on this matter I am most definately willing to listen.
- John Burch Says:
March 30th, 2009 at 10:11 pm Zion,
In one of the other posts, we talked about how the internet will drive a brain interface. That and medical needs will drive the research. Right now very experienced researchers are working on ways to do this but few of them have the money they need to do the work. All the money is going into new tennis rackets ( an example that is a bit dated now ). or other ways to make quick money. Business looks to the next quarter, the next year. To do this research you have to look five and ten years down the road. And nobody invests in that blue sky research.
I’m probably a year or more out of date on what is actually being done. I hope there is a lot of fundamental research that we can use, but if they patent it, that just locks it up. I hope the nanofactory animation I did contributed something to the mix that can’t be owned by some corporation. Probably not, it was too theoretical and not based on real research.
We will definitely have protesters. This is the most radical technology the human race has ever invented. NOTHING comes close. Everything will be labeled as evil by someone. Let’s just hope enough people want the results. The stem cell controversy is the exact type of problem we will see. Moral arguments will affect how the laws are written. If the government is conservative, it will be inhibited and controlled, if the government is more liberal, it will be supported. Everybody votes their values.
- Zion Says:
March 30th, 2009 at 10:58 pm Thank you once again John for a quick reply, I guess the next step for me would be to start studying nano technology so that I may have a better understanding of possible problems with the body accepting or rejecting alien cells. Keep a look out though as I will definately have more questions for you
- Zion Says:
March 31st, 2009 at 6:51 pm Hey John,
Ok so we have the small things out of the way lol,
When this all comes to fruition, how would one be able to “hook Up” to information databases (Internet), would you think that there will be a big chance that human beings will have the chance to loose themselves mentally eg, get lost in cyberspace and not want to deal with reality, but hey what is reality. This will also mean that you would need a way to store that information aswell which would be alot of space almost incomprehensable, to store a brains information and a very secure conenection aswell so as not to get disconnected.
just a query.
- Sergio Says:
April 11th, 2009 at 4:08 pm I am very interested in modern-day science, and I really do believe that exactly this kind of revolution is what human kind needs, being able to augment brain using nano-technology, it’s a big and at start, yes, a very risky step towards what is yet to be discovered. If this comes along in the near future I would, without a doubt, no matter the risk, do it. But as any idea or theory, especially an idea THIS huge, literally,it will face alot of critics, maybe even be drawn at the edge of end, as I believe, people worldwide would be shocked,in this case – Darwin is a great example, people of his time were outraged by his ideas, but enough with the history lessons.
If we look back and compare discoveries of the past, 19th/20 century sure holds alot of juice, I’m just concerned about how exactly public will take this.
- Martin Erlic Says:
April 28th, 2009 at 7:29 pm http://www.frc.ri.cmu.edu/~hpm/
The idea of uploading as described in this article can be originally traced to Hans Moravec, a roboticist at Carnegie Mellon University. His five main articles are presented in full at the link.
John Filis wrote a critique of Hans Moravec’s singularity event.
Take them each as you please.
- Markus Says:
June 23rd, 2009 at 1:25 am This particular post is quite interesting. I enjoyed reading it.
But the (basic) idea is not new. In fact it’s very old (Rene Descartes).
Of course, such augmented brains would ease a lot of things and still:
Will love and hate change, between 2 humans having augmented brains?
Is being together with familiy and/or friends a much more enjoyable thing to do with augmented brains?
Does music, composed in a tenth of a second sound better?
The only real advantage I could think of is that a augmented brain (as described in the post) would ease training and learning: No more reading of thounds of pages, attending hundreds of classes and no more “real time” lectures. You would have more time for the important things in live.
It’s the same old idea of joining “products of engineering with human tissue”. “Nano Tech”, which is a term used to describe the engineering of features smaller than 100 nm, does not and won’t change basic ideas and their consequences.
- Sam Says:
December 11th, 2009 at 6:46 pm this technolagy is long from being discoverd?
- Not so convinced about AR anymore « Thesis Blog Says:
January 14th, 2010 at 10:09 am [...] with huge potential. I even believe it to be the medium of the future. A while ago I read an interesting theory of human nano-enhancement, which would include projection on the iris. This would be augmenting [...]
- John Burch Says:
February 7th, 2010 at 4:09 pm Too bad, I was about to write something on lens projection to the retina. Might still do so.
One step toward full integration with the web is the use of contact lens to project laser images
on the retina. That puts graphics into what we already see with our natural eyes and lets us have
full video appreciation of the internet where ever we are. That, plus audio, makes the internet into
a full sensory environment with chatter as the main course.
- Last Day Watchers » Blog Archive » Brain Augmentation via nano robots Says:
February 22nd, 2010 at 2:50 am [...] http://www.nanofuture2030.com/?p=12 [...]
- Eric Says:
May 24th, 2010 at 6:43 am I think if the nanoneurons run off of chemical energy like he says and they perform similarly to their biological counterparts then an emp type occurrence would have no effect on them(just like they don’t now). To solve the problem of hacking just keep the brain a closed system(except senses of course)- that means no computer/internet interfacing. Even if they made the brain networkable with a computer I think you couldn’t hack it with any real intent. You’d have to be the smartest person alive to take a system that complex and input a program to have a specific outcome. They could still just have input that would destroy your brain cause random responses AKA spasms and whatnot. Pretty much the same as what happens when someone gives direct brain input in a normal brain(shock treatment comes to mind). I’m not expert though so please think over, check, correct, argue, add to my thoughts here.
- John Burch Says:
May 24th, 2010 at 7:29 am Eric,
Thanks for the comment. I believe an EMP would disrupt any electrical circuits. And possibly short out any conductive material. And the proposed silicon based nanoneurons would be vulnerable to such a thing. I recently heard a theory that ball lighting may be a brain illusion caused by high magnetic fields. At least they created something similar in the lab. Which says even our biological brain is vulnerable to strong magnetic fields although they don’t burn out they just get confused and see things that aren’t there.
Hacking of the brain will be a problem. Anything of value will be at risk from someone. Any connections to the brain will be a risk but at least at first, we will be creating additional senses only because we don’t understand the coding of the brain well enough to rewrite anything. All we can do now or in the next few decades is splice in new data sources that use the same type of data formats in the brain. That is a LONG way from understanding how the brain works well enough to hack it in the same sense that we hack computers now. Once we do understand the brain, then the risk of someone taking over another person and changing their value system, their goals or their behavior will be real. But by then we will each have a AI installed in our body that is totally devoted to us and to defend us from any thing outside. Sort of a immune system on steroids that handles both biological and data input. Any valuable system requires a defense system. Up to now, our knee jerk biological system was all we needed.