#leweb - Ramez Naam and our cyborg future

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Ramez Naam

Liveblog of Ramez Naam talking at LeWeb Paris 2013

The coming cyborg

Invasive cyborg technology is coming – wired contact lens, the pill cam which travels through your intestines taking 30 FPS photos and sending them wirelessly. All of those are awesome – but what happens when we network the human brain.

The number one subject we want to get more data about is the human body and brain. Cochlear implants can give people hearing who have never had that ability in their life. The first and foremost motivation for these technologies is medical.

We’ve made process on sight. 10 years ago a man who had lost both eyes in accidents had CCDs attached to glasses which attached to his brain via a jack in his skull. It was terrible vision – low res black and white. Systems now allow the paralysed to start controlling robotic arms.

Brain monitors can now make a reasonable guess of what you’re looking at by recreating the image from brain activity. A hippocampus chip can help restore the ability to form new memories for those who have lost it. It’s in rat trails at the moment, and moving to human trials next year.

Cyborg monkey IQ tests

Scientists have trained rhesus monkeys to do IQ tests. They they cripple their cognitive ability by giving them cocaine – and use to chip to intervene and see if they can restore performance. They can. In fact, they improve it. Monkey-to-monkey telepathy has been technologically generated using brain electrode in defence-funded research. Two researchers have played a computer game as a single player using electrical signals transferred between them.

There are barriers:

  • Health worries of elective surgery
  • Computer crashing…
  • Malware in your brain
  • The NSA in your brain

That said, he’s optimistic about this. We are the communication species. That’s what makes us special. We invent more and more communication technology, and it follows a predictable path. New technology – like printing – improves idea exchange, creates business opportunities, but also accelerates artistic and cultural development, because people can be exposed to more ideas.

What change could networked brains bring?

body modificationbrainscyborgslewebleweb13sciencetechnology

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.