Using Nanoparticles to Augment Human Brains…?

CNN posted an article today about the potential risk of nanotechnology on the human brain. Basically some research shows that nano-scale particles such as industrial waste, or even components of nanotechnologies, can migrate through the human circulatory system and eventually lodge in the brain. This could cause harmful effects. But on the other hand, maybe this “bug” is actually a “feature!”

The fact that this is possible could be used to introduce nanoscale computational devices into the human nervous system — essentially splicing a distributed computer into a living human brain. Suppose the nanoparticles could establish an ad hoc local area network amongst themselves, and suppose they lodged throughout the human nervous system, attaching to neurons. Suddenly it might be possible to do real-time sensing — and triggering — of any neuron in the human body. And all of this could be monitored by an external computer system. This could enable amazing new biofeedback systems. But that’s just the beginning — because it might also enable people to “backup” their nervous systems — including perhaps their memories and skills. It could also potentially enable software augmentation of human thinking as it happens — an external computer network could interact with your own “internal network” and as you think or sense things, it could search the entire Net or an expert system, or the brains of other people in your network, and give you suggestions, knowledge, etc.

Essentially this could be a way to network humans to computers, the Internet, and then to other humans. This could enable future “group minds” and “collective intelligences” that we cannot even imagine yet. It could also enable humans to easily interact with virtual reality environments — they could be overlaid onto their sensory experience to augment information (such as a visual scene being augmented with labels or diagrams etc.), or even to “switch channels” from this “reality” (which may also be virtual) that we experience to other synthetic realities that exist in our computer networks. It might even enable people to record their dreams, and/or enter the dreams of other people — that would be the most advanced “virtual reality” possible.

Another interesting application of this technology might be to deliver neural drugs more effectively. It could also be used to facilitate interspecies communication — for example imagine a system that could map between a human brain and a dolphin brain. You permeate both a human and dolphin’s nervous systems with nanocomputing particles. First there is “learning phase” where an external system monitors them as they do things in order to learn how their brains work. Then it starts to learn how to map between them by observing how they interact with other organisms of their species and with their environments in order to figure out their language, communicat and memory representation schemes.

Once that is known it could directly map information between them, maybe even in real-time, enabling not only communication but even memory uploading and downloading. That would be cool — imagine being able to do virtual telepresence into the nervous system of a dolphin as it swims around with its pod in the wild. You could “look through it’s sense organs” as it swims around, and maybe even observe what it thinks and feels like — sort a window into being someone else — in this case someone who is of a different species. Among the many other applications of this technology of course there would be amazing potential in the arts, education, therapy, collaboration, entertainment, science, relationships, etc. and many other enjoyable diversions that people would probably figure out they could engage in once their nervous systems are networked.

Anyway the idea of permeating a human nervous system with networkable nanocomputers is definitely something to think about, or think twice about, as the case may be (pun intended!).

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5 Responses to Using Nanoparticles to Augment Human Brains…?

  1. Paul says:

    Networked humans? Group Minds? Collective Conscienceness?
    And what happens when the rich children have their internet connections in their head, and the poor children cannot afford them? The rich remain more imployable in better jobs and the poor become useless for anything else than common laborers.

  2. Tim says:

    great science fiction but you lose all controls of the containment of our conciousness.Then we would be subject to manipulatable errant systems without protections.

  3. Escape says:

    I hope such a thing will never happen, although .. i think this is one of the next steps of technology, if not one of the actual steps. But if this happens … it’s kind of the end of freedom 🙂 Did you saw any computer being free ? Of course, it would be nice to know a lot of things without the effort of learning but .. this is what a machine does. Think about how human relationships would be.

  4. Runde says:

    Aaah, it’ll just be like today, except that I won’t have to go to the computer. Whenever I think of something, I have to go wikipedia it or google it to check what’s been thought of before. The access will be the same. The demand will be the same: Your own brain’s ability to remember, refine, reduce, recombine and finally re-sell the knowledge that you’ve taken in. I’m not sure I believe in creativity, but I DO believe in understanding things, swallowing and digesting things, and gulping them back up into other’s waiting beaks, mixed with my own stomach acids. (when I make mistakes, that’s when I use the word “creativity”.) Nanotech in my brain ought to make me able to work out while googling, and to save interesting toughts and mail them. It will give the net addicts better-looking bodies, in particular if we can find a way to run “training program” on the little brain and “education program” on the linguistic/visual/abstract center at the same time.
    And duh, nanotech will be cheaper than internet today anyway, (advanced, yeah, but probably also self-producing, in the long term, less logistics, and less hardware) so it will be a democratic development. And as for mind control: People could hack my mac and steal my thoughts today … BUT THEY DON’T. Except google and gmail, who might be the beasts of the apocalypse.

  5. Runde says:

    There is nothing to gain with a group-mind “Borg” society. We need free thinkers. We need borgs too, but borgs will be borgs, as they are today. With nanotech, they’ll at least be really powerful, well-connected functioning borgs. But we all love being individuals, as individuals get laid easier, and all beings with physical bodies in a certain state of health like getting laid.