DARPA Developes New “Brain Chip” That Modifies Memory

“Brain hacking” has become popular in Silicon Valley as many people are seeking to expand the capacity of their minds in order to reach “new levels” of intelligence. This is a trend that is riding at the heels of the developments in artificial intelligence and robotics that , as Peter Diamandis has stated, will be part of a new phase of human evolution in which man will reach towards becoming an “interplanetary species”.

There has been talk of implanting chips into men’s brains for a long time, presumably in order to increase their “brain capacity.” However, this may soon become a reality according to a report:

In a grainy black-and-white video shot at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, a patient sits in a hospital bed, his head wrapped in a bandage. He’s trying to recall 12 words for a memory test but can only conjure three: whale, pit, zoo. After a pause, he gives up, sinking his head into his hands.

In a second video, he recites all 12 words without hesitation. “No kidding, you got all of them!” a researcher says. This time the patient had help, a prosthetic memory aid inserted into his brain.

Over the past five years, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) has invested $77 million to develop devices intended to restore the memory-generation capacity of people with traumatic brain injuries. Last year two groups conducting tests on humans published compelling results.

The Mayo Clinic device was created by Michael Kahana, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, and the medical technology company Medtronic Plc. Connected to the left temporal cortex, it monitors the brain’s electrical activity and forecasts whether a lasting memory will be created. “Just like meteorologists predict the weather by putting sensors in the environment that measure humidity and wind speed and temperature, we put sensors in the brain and measure electrical signals,” Kahana says. If brain activity is suboptimal, the device provides a small zap, undetectable to the patient, to strengthen the signal and increase the chance of memory formation. In two separate studies, researchers found the prototype consistently boosted memory 15% to 18%.

The second group performing human testing, a team from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., aided by colleagues at the University of Southern California, has a more finely tuned method. In a study published last year, their patients showed memory retention improvement of as much as 37%. “We’re looking at questions like, ‘Where are my keys? Where did I park the car? Have I taken my pills?’ ” says Robert Hampson, lead author of the 2018 study.

To form memories, several neurons fire in a highly specific way, transmitting a kind of code. “The code is different for unique memories, and unique individuals,” Hampson says. By surveying a few dozen neurons in the hippocampus, the brain area responsible for memory formation, his team learned to identify patterns indicating correct and incorrect memory formation for each patient and to supply accurate codes when the brain faltered.

In presenting patients with hundreds of pictures, the group could even recognize certain neural firing patterns as particular memories. “We’re able to say, for example, ‘That’s the code for the yellow house with the car in front of it,’ ” says Theodore Berger, a professor of bioengineering at the University of Southern California who helped develop mathematical models for Hampson’s team.

Both groups have tested their devices only on epileptic patients with electrodes already implanted in their brains to monitor seizures; each implant requires clunky external hardware that won’t fit in somebody’s skull. The next steps will be building smaller implants and getting approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to bring the devices to market. A startup called Nia Therapeutics Inc. is already working to commercialize Kahana’s technology.

Justin Sanchez, who just stepped down as director of Darpa’s biological technologies office, says veterans will be the first to use the prosthetics. “We have hundreds of thousands of military personnel with traumatic brain injuries,” he says. The next group will likely be stroke and Alzheimer’s patients. Eventually, perhaps, the general public will have access—though there’s a serious obstacle to mass adoption. “I don’t think any of us are going to be signing up for voluntary brain surgery anytime soon,” Sanchez says. “Only when these technologies become less invasive, or noninvasive, will they become widespread.” (source, source)

Note that the majority of funding and drive for this is coming from DARPA, which is the research wing of the US military behind many major projects, the most well-known of which is the Internet. They have been heavily pushing forward with the development of artificial intelligence systems because, as I have stated, this is going to be the next frontier in a major war that will determine the winner or loser just as the machine gun was for the First World War and the nuclear bomb was for the Second World War.

But the chip has many other serious complications. As noted, it is not merely used to “enhance” memory, but to theoretically connect to the brain to be able to “implant” or, as such, “erase” memories. Right now it requires surgery, but in the future it may not need require such an invasive and delicate procedure.

The health risks (toxic chemicals, electronics, cancer, etc.) are all obvious concerns, but that one can “edit” the contents of one’s brain is a larger one. The human mind is one of those things that is “private” to all people. Nobody can “remove” what one thinks because while the brain is a physical organ, it interacts with the intangible part of man known as the human soul. The physical side can be affected, but the intangible cannot be save for man’s will as he desires it to be changed.

The members of DARPA likely do not believe in a soul, or immortality, and taking a naturalistic standpoing, believe that just as it is the desire of all militaries to have a “super soldier” that cannot feel pain or barely be destroyed, that such should also be completely obedient without any questions otherwise. The ability to override the person’s brain through a chip- something which this appears to be -would be a step at making an “organic” – i.e. human -attempt at doing this falls directly in line with the advancement of AI.

One can only wonder, given how computer viruses work, would it be possible- and there is no reasn to think it impossible -for such a chip to get a computer virus? Would another man be able to “hack” into somebody’s brain and fill a man’s head with thoughts that he does not want?

That is a disturbing thought to consider.

In George Orwell’s famous novel The Island of Dr. Moreau, the mad Dr. Moreau attempted to use a combination of surgery and brain modifications to animals found on the island- often done with great pain to the creatures -in order to turn them human-like. However, Moreau’s experiment eventually fails, and the animals revert to their natural state, but not before killing Dr. Moreau.

In another short story, I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream, Harlan Ellison portrays a computer who has enslaved the last five people after a great war, and forces them to serve its will. Four are able to commit suicide, but the last one is unable to kill himself and so the computer binds itself to him, transforming his physical appearance and taking over his mind, keeping him alive in perpetual agony and using its programming to deepen his suffering, from which the final lines of the story are drawn, “I have no mouth, and I must scream.”

Once the boundaries between man and machine have crossed to where a man cannot give his will freely, then he can only give it through slavery by outside force upon him applied from another. God does not attempt to enslave man, but only asks for his love. The devil and fallen angels, however, do attempt to enslave man, for as they have rejected God, their only way to obedience of another is through power.

The merging of technology and man has offered many promising things, including the betterment of society in all facets as well as military operations. Certainly, some of these things will come to pass. However, the fundamental purpose of such “adaptations is to erode the will of men to such a point that their circumstances of life force them into a slavery worse than anything that they or human history have ever known, and it will be done in the name of progress, nationhood, and “humanitarianism” while being anything but progressive, patriotic, or humane.

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