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Forget humanoids, what if we could upgrade our brain?

Vicky Kapur (From the Executive Editor's Desk)
Filed on November 5, 2019 | Last updated on November 5, 2019 at 06.17 am

(Alamy)

As we move deeper into an 'assisted living' paradigm, should we explore a world beyond prosthetics and orthotics?

There's been growing chatter about artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), the Internet of Things (IoT) and adaptive machine learning pushing the envelope of possibility, one phenomenon at a time. With rapid advances in tech, the advent of the IoT, AI, and AR are constantly redefining and expanding 'what's humanly possible' to blur existing borders and include efficiencies we didn't know existed. Even as humans continue to carry devices with them (think laptops and mobiles), a growing number of mechanical contraptions are rescuing humans from natural and man-made disasters (think mine-clearing vehicles), and humanoids and other machines are now beginning to travel unattended (think Sophia and self-driving cars).

As we move deeper into an 'assisted living' paradigm, should we explore a world beyond prosthetics and orthotics? Would you be open to, say, having an IQ-enhancing chip implanted in your brain if such a thing was available in the medical mart tomorrow? Undo that rollback of eyes, please - it isn't science fiction anymore. Elon Musk's Neuralink has been 'developing ultra-high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect humans and computers'. Yes, it is exactly what it sounds. It has been trialled on monkeys and it is only a matter of time before human trials are undertaken. Once we master the art of sending and receiving comprehensible signals via brain-computer interfaces, there's no saying to how much of a boost can the human brain get.

So far, we've used plastic and other surgeries to 'correct' our appearance (facelift, hair transplant, lip augmentation, etc.) and implanted machines in our body to fix a defective organ (pacemakers, cochlear implants, etc.). But when (not if) we move beyond purely medical applications and repair/recovery, we'll have the human merging with the machine.

That's when we'll witness the emergence of cyborgs in the true sense of the word.

Cognitive enhancements could then help us make better decisions and faster. The science of the day may even help us increase our bandwidth or extend our memory. That future isn't here yet, but the signs say it isn't too far either. For those in a hurry to upgrade your brain right now, do it the time-tested way - pick up a book.


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