Posted on May 02, 2019, 9 p.m.
Imagine if you will, the possibility of future technology that can provide instant access to information and artificial intelligence simply by thinking of it; communication, education, work, privacy, security, and the world as we know it would be dramatically transformed.
An article published in Frontiers in Neuroscience predicts that exponential progress in nanotechnology, nanomedicine, artificial intelligence, and computation will lead to development of a Human Brain/Cloud Interface that will connect brain cells to vast cloud computing networks in real time within this century bringing about the internet of thought.
B/CI seems to come straight out of science fiction movies, which don’t always end well. In real life this concept may become a reality, as this concept was initially proposed by Ray Kurzweil who suggested neural nanorobots designed by Robert Freitas could be used to connect the human brain neocortex to a synthetic neocortex in the cloud; the neocortex is the newest, smartest, conscious part of the human brain.
“These devices would navigate the human vasculature, cross the blood-brain barrier, and precisely autoposition themselves among, or even within brain cells," explains Freitas. "They would then wirelessly transmit encoded information to and from a cloud-based supercomputer network for real-time brain-state monitoring and data extraction."
Freitas has proposed neural nanorobots could provide direct real time monitoring and control of signals to and from brain cells. This cortex within the cloud would allow for Johnny Mnemonic style downloading of information to the brain, imagine The Matrix if the Mnemonic reference doesn’t register.
“A human B/CI system mediated by neuralnanorobotics could empower individuals with instantaneous access to all cumulative human knowledge available in the cloud, while significantly improving human learning capacities and intelligence," says Dr. Nuno Martins.
“While not yet particularly sophisticated, an experimental human 'BrainNet' system has already been tested, enabling thought-driven information exchange via the cloud between individual brains," explains Martins. "It used electrical signals recorded through the skull of 'senders' and magnetic stimulation through the skull of 'receivers,' allowing for performing cooperative tasks.”
"With the advance of neuralnanorobotics, we envisage the future creation of 'superbrains' that can harness the thoughts and thinking power of any number of humans and machines in real time. This shared cognition could revolutionize democracy, enhance empathy, and ultimately unite culturally diverse groups into a truly global society."
Existing supercomputers are suggested to already have processing speed capable of handling the necessary volumes of neural data for B/CI, and technology keeps getting faster; however actually transferring neural data to and from supercomputers in the cloud is likely to be one of the challenges that hold-up development.
“This challenge includes not only finding the bandwidth for global data transmission," cautions Martins, "but also, how to enable data exchange with neurons via tiny devices embedded deep in the brain."
The team has proposed use of magnetoelectric nanoparticles may effectively amplify communication between neurons and the cloud, however getting these nanoparticles and nanorobots safely into the brain possibly via the circulation will perhaps be the biggest challenge of all.
“These nanoparticles have been used already in living mice to couple external magnetic fields to neuronal electric fields – that is, to detect and locally amplify these magnetic signals and so allow them to alter the electrical activity of neurons," explains Martins. "This could work in reverse, too: electrical signals produced by neurons and nanorobots could be amplified via magnetoelectric nanoparticles, to allow their detection outside of the skull."
"A detailed analysis of the biodistribution and biocompatibility of nanoparticles is required before they can be considered for human development. Nevertheless, with these and other promising technologies for B/CI developing at an ever-increasing rate, an 'internet of thoughts' could become a reality before the turn of the century," Martins concludes.
Even though there is great potential for good, there is just as much potential for negative, it makes one think if it is worth the risk. Such B/CI technology may allow humans to create a future global superbrain that would connect networks of individual human brains and AI to enable collective thought. To some this is a scary thought and immediately brings images of Skynet, Blade Runner, I Robot, The Twilight Zone, and the Matrix, trusting machines/computers with such potential power gives just cause to be wary, how do you control something smarter than a human if it comes to the conclusion we are a danger to this world.
Perhaps the most chilling warning we can learn from science fiction would be, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should.” by Dr. Ian Malcolm, mathematician specializing in the Chaos Theory, which is the idea that small changes in complex systems can have big and unpredictable effects. You can’t control for everything or the unknown, when we meddle with things we shouldn’t this theory predicts things will quickly proceed to behave in "unpredictable fashion" and that it is "an accident waiting to happen".
Those concerned about personal privacy and the implications and side effects of wireless technology probably won’t be too thrilled about where it is headed, while others will likely be very excited. Are we moving towards the internet of thoughts, according to this it would appear to look that way. But it this really a good thing, only time will tell.
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement.