DARPA Seeks Brain-Computer Link

DARPA Seeks Brain-Computer Link

DARPA (The United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) announced last week that it hopes to create a way to build a direct connection between the human brain and a computer.

brain computer linkThe program has been titled the Neural Engineering System Design program and its leaders have invited researchers to submit proposals for how best to design, build, demonstrate and validate a human-computer link that would record the activity of over 1 million neurons and stimulate more than 100 thousand neurons in the brain.

The NESD hopes to engineer an interface that can perform continuous, simultaneous full-duplex interaction with at least 1,000 neurons. This project would initially focus on regions in the human auditory, visual and somatosensory cortex.

DARPA has stated that devices that yield from NESD would likely be used to compensate for sight or hearing deficits. However, considering there is a very hushed race towards the advancement of killer robots controlled at a distance by soldiers, one can only imagine where any successfully developed neuro-computer interface would sprout up within the defense sector.

The NESD project also brings to mind the notorious 2045 Initiative, a transhumanist aspiration that refers to the attempt to make it possible for human beings to upload their consciousness to the cloud by 2045. Integral to this success would be the in-depth mapping of the brain and its neural activities, which would then need to be recreated digitally. The $60 million that DARPA is offering for multiple quality NESD proposals will likely make that initiative more¬†sought after¬†than ever, though that doesn’t mean that it is more likely.

brain compute rlink2Several technologists and philosophers have stated their doubts about the ability to fully map and digitize the human brain to the point that there could be a fluid connection between a brain and a computer. The successful creation of this connection would necessitate that the indecipherable code of non-linear movements of billions of neurons be accurately mapped and recreated.

DARPA has stated that the proposals it will choose will be innovative as opposed to incremental, and that the device created should measure one cubic centimeter and perform the read, write and full-duplex functions stated earlier. They must also be secure from spoofing, tampering, and attacks from hackers. They must be able to work without external links or connectors for powering of facilitating communications with computers, and their hardware components must be modular.

So what’s the rationale behind asking for such an insane and potentially impossible task to be performed?

“The brain is probably the last medical threshold we haven’t been able to cross with medical devices,” explained the global director of visionary healthcare at Frost & Sullivan, Venkat Rajan. “Treating a lot of degenerative disorders- whether related to pain, Parkinson’s disease, mental health, or vision problems- with drugs hasn’t necessarily always worked… The brain is just a circuit, and if you can interfere with it with microelectronics and address issues, that can be a significant improvement in the quality of life.”

The “brain is just a circuit” philosophy certainly does imply that such technology is just a research assignment from being deciphered, but believers that consciousness may just be a little more complicated than that will likely not hold their breath for DARPA’s project to come through.

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