Human brain could connect to internet ‘within decades’, theory suggests
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A ‘human brain/cloud interface’ will give people instant access to vast knowledge and computing power via thought alone, a collaboration of researchers claims.
Researchers from UC Berkeley and the US Institute for Molecular Manufacturing (iMM) predict that exponential progress in nanotechnology, nanomedicine, artificial intelligence, and computation will lead to the development of a “human brain/cloud interface” (B/CI), that connects neurons and synapses in the brain to vast cloud-computing networks in real time.
Writing in Frontiers in Neuroscience, the B/CI concept was initially proposed by futurist-author-inventor Ray Kurzwell, who suggested that neural nanorobots could be used to connect the neocortex of the human brain to a “synthetic neocortex” in the cloud.
Designed and proposed by Robert Freitas Jr, senior research fellow at iMM, the theory is that these neural nanorobots would provide direct, real-time monitoring and controlling of signals to and from brain cells.
“These devices would navigate the human vasculature, cross the blood-brain barrier, and precisely autoposition themselves among, or even within brain cells,” Freitas explained. “They would then wirelessly transmit encoded information to and from a cloud-based supercomputer network for real-time brain-state monitoring and data extraction.”
This cortex in the cloud would allow “Matrix”-style downloading of information to the brain, the group claims.
“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,” said Dr Nuno Martins of UC Berkley.
B/CI technology might also allow us to create a future “global super brain” that would connect networks of individual human brains and artificial intelligence to enable collective thought.
Martins said: “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.”
“It used electrical signals recorded through the skull of ‘senders’ and magnetic stimulation through the skull of ‘receivers,’ allowing for performing cooperative tasks,” Martins added.
“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 revolutionise democracy, enhance empathy, and ultimately unite culturally diverse groups into a truly global society.”
According to the team, existing supercomputers have processing speeds capable of handling the necessary volumes of neural data for B/CI, and such speeds are getting faster.
However, transferring neural data to and from supercomputers in the cloud is likely to be a barrier for its development, according to the researchers.
“This challenge includes not only finding the bandwidth for global data transmission,” cautioned Martins, “but also, how to enable data exchange with neurons via tiny devices embedded deep in the brain.”
One solution proposed by the researchers is the use of ‘magnetoelectric nanoparticles’ to effectively amplify communication between neurons and the cloud.
“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,” said 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.”
Getting these nanoparticles – and nanorobots – safely into the brain via the circulation, would be perhaps the greatest challenge of all in B/CI, the team added.
“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 concluded.
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