“Brain Augmentation via nano robots”
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?
The Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is funding a number of technologies that tap into the brain’s ability to detect threats before the conscious mind is able to process the information. Already, there is Pentagon-sponsored work on using the brain’s pattern detection capabilities for enhanced gogglesand super-fast satellite imagery analysis. What happens, however, when the Pentagon ultimately uses this enhanced capability for targeting weapons?
This question has led Stephen White to write a fascinating article exploring the implications of a soldiers’ legal culpability for weapons that may someday tap into this “pre-conscious” brain activity. Like theMinority Report notion of “pre-crime,” where someone is convicted for contemplating a criminal act they haven’t yet acted upon, this article raises the intriguing question of whether a soldier could be convicted for the mistake made by a pre-conscious brain wave.
One of the justifications for employing a brain-machine interface is that the human brain can perform image calculations in parallel and can thus recognize items, such as targets, and classify them in 200 milliseconds, a rate orders of magnitude faster than computers can perform such operations. In fact, the image processing occurs faster than the subject can become conscious of what he or she sees. Studies of patients with damage to the striate cortex possess what neuropsychologists term “blindsight,” an ability to predict accurately where objects are positioned, even when they are placed outside these patients’ field of vision. The existence of this ability suggests the operation of an unconscious visual perception system in the human brain. These blindsight patients often exhibit “levels of accuracy well beyond the performance of normal observers making judgments close to the threshold of awareness,” particularly with regard to locating ‘unseen’ objects. The speed of visual recognition varies depending on its degree of the perceived object’s multivalence; ambiguous objects take more time to process. If neuralinterfaced weapons were designed to fire at the time of recognition rather than after the disambiguation process, a process that would likely need to occur for the pilot to differentiate between combatants and protected persons, the pilot firing them presumably would lack criminal accountability for the act implicit in willful killing. Because of the way brain-interfaced weapons may interrupt the biology of consciousness, reasonable doubt may exist as to whether an actor performed a conscious act in the event of a contested incident.