The Quest for a Better Brain

320px-Utah_array_pat5215088How soon can we expect to see brain implants for perfect memory, enhanced vision, hypernormal focus or an expert golf swing?, ask Gary Marcus and Christof Koch for the Wall Street Journal:

What would you give for a retinal chip that let you see in the dark or for a next-generation cochlear implant that let you hear any conversation in a noisy restaurant, no matter how loud? Or for a memory chip, wired directly into your brain’s hippocampus, that gave you perfect recall of everything you read? Or for an implanted interface with the Internet that automatically translated a clearly articulated silent thought (“the French sun king”) into an online search that digested the relevant Wikipedia page and projected a summary directly into your brain?

Science fiction? Perhaps not for very much longer. Brain implants today are where laser eye surgery was several decades ago. They are not risk-free and make sense only for a narrowly defined set of patients—but they are a sign of things to come.

Unlike pacemakers, dental crowns or implantable insulin pumps, neuroprosthetics—devices that restore or supplement the mind’s capacities with electronics inserted directly into the nervous system—change how we perceive the world and move through it. For better or worse, these devices become part of who we are.

Neuroprosthetics aren’t new. They have been around commercially for three decades, in the form of the cochlear implants used in the ears (the outer reaches of the nervous system) of more than 300,000 hearing-impaired people around the world. Last year, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first retinal implant, made by the company Second Sight.

Both technologies exploit the same principle: An external device, either a microphone or a video camera, captures sounds or images and processes them, using the results to drive a set of electrodes that stimulate either the auditory or the optic nerve, approximating the naturally occurring output from the ear or the eye…

[continues in the Wall Street Journal]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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10 Comments on "The Quest for a Better Brain"

  1. Why wait for a government/corporate mind control chip to become ‘better’ when we have pills for that right now!

  2. AManCalledDa-da | Mar 17, 2014 at 11:34 am |

    You don’t need a better brain. You need to change your mind.

  3. BuzzCoastin | Mar 17, 2014 at 12:45 pm |

    to think humans can improve upon nature’s design
    is typical human hubris
    god must certainly be amused

    • Hannah Willey | Mar 18, 2014 at 8:29 am |

      Humans are from nature, are in fact a force of nature, and therefore nature is thinking it can change itself, of which it appears most certainly capable.

  4. Anarchy Pony | Mar 17, 2014 at 1:59 pm |

    Woo! Let’s give the upper classes even more advantages that only they can afford!

  5. Simon Valentine | Mar 17, 2014 at 6:22 pm |

    pic looks like a cross between “dropleton” and magnetic-core memory of yonder yore

  6. mannyfurious | Mar 17, 2014 at 6:51 pm |

    Yes, but when will somebody come up with an “improvement” to the pinky toe? That’s a useless little fuck at the moment. I can’t even really control it. It only moves when the other toes move. What the fuck nature?

  7. emperorreagan | Mar 18, 2014 at 10:42 am |

    Will the direct connection where my implant looks some passing thought up for me also include an advertisement? If I think about a Pepsi, will I have one delivered to my door by Amazon’s drone service? Will McDonald’s sponsor my brain implant, so I can keyword search the world’s library in my head but only want to eat at McDonald’s?

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