A few days back I wrote a post called "It's the End of the World as we know it" in which I shared a few thoughts on what I consider to be the inevitable progress of technology towards our imminent extinction, at least as a biological species. Within that post I mentioned that if computers don't just replace us immediately, which I think is highly likely, that we will be forced by competitive necessity and even by desire to embark along the route of upgrading ourselves, component by component, until there is nothing left of what we originally were. I thought you might be interested in one of the first steps towards the mental upgrade process when I stumbled upon an article over on PopSci.com about Ted Berger, a man engineering brain implants that can re-create thoughts.
Srinivasan [a co-worker of Berger] explains that the chip is sending electric pulses through the needle into the brain slice, which is passing them on to the screen we're watching. "The difference in the waves' modulation reflects the signals sent out by the brain slice," he says. "And they're almost identical in frequency and pattern to the pulses sent by the chip." Put more simply, this iron-gray wafer about a millimeter square is talking to living brain cells as though it were an actual body part.
The article deals with Berger's creation of the world's first prototype memory implant, intended to replace damaged brain tissue and it's a fascinating read, full of interesting quotes like
Can a chunk of silicon really stand in for brain cells? I ask. "I don't need a grand theory of the mind to fix what is essentially a signal-processing problem," he says. "A repairman doesn't need to understand music to fix your broken CD player."
"It's the type of science that can change the world," says Richard H. Granger, Jr., a professor of brain sciences who leads the Neukom Institute for Interdisciplinary Computational Sciences at Dartmouth College. "Replicating memory is going to happen in our lifetimes, and that puts us on the edge of being able to understand how thought arises from tissue—in other words, to understand what consciousness really means."
"We'll prove we can replace a central part of the brain that has lost a higher cognitive function, such as memory, with a microchip," he says.
So if you didn't believe me before, read the article and ask yourself how long you think it'll be before we are upgrading our brains since it's not long now until we are replacing damaged parts of them?
Not long also I think. Nice to have shared a species with you – good bye :)
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