The Brave New World of Neural Implants

Bionic Brains and Beyond

Just read this fascinating article about neural implants, small devices that are placed under the skull on the surface of the brain. Think of them like miniature pacemakers for the brain. Today they are helping deaf people hear for the first time, reducing seizures, improving Parkinsons symptoms. Who could argue with that? But what if an implant could give you superabilities? Author Daniel Wilson poses some thought provoking questions about where this is all going to take us.

From my standpoint, having spent a lifetime helping kids and young adults with disabilities, I see this as a simple matter of overcoming obstacles through technology. Dealing with the effects of brain injury is often a difficult struggle. If technology can help lighten the load then I’m all for it. While I think the author’s questions are interesting, he is also trying to sell his sci-fi novel about a group of superabled people who disrupt society. In the same way that nobody signs up for a pacemaker unless they need it, I can’t really imagine anyone lining up for this stuff in order to get a competitive advantage.

I’d love to hear what you think.





3 Responses to The Brave New World of Neural Implants

  1. Charlie — I think that there will be people who will want to use this sort of technology for “improving” their performance just like athletes of all ages take steroids etc. I have also met students who take ritalin or adderall not because they have ADHD or similar conditions but to improve their ability to study and concentrate.

    Now just because some people will abuse the technology does not mean that it should not be used. If I have a disorder of some type and I can imporve the quality of my life by having one of these implants I would sign up today. Those who would do it just to improve their performance is another matter and that practice should be proscribed and the individuals who do that and the doctors who perform the surgeries should face criminal charges.


    • Thanks for your take Bob. Unfortunately, you may be right about the potential for abuse and if that were to happen I agree with your remedy. Of course, that assumes that author Wilson is correct in his prophesy about superabilities. While the current neural devices can alleviate some symptoms, I don’t think there is any evidence yet that they will lead to superabilities. It’s a pretty big stretch to go from prosthetic legs giving a runner a supposed competitive advantage to neural devices doing the same thing. The difference in complexity is of an almost unimaginable order of magnitude.

  2. Someone was telling me the other day about that spoke about what professions won’t be around in the next 25 years. Among those were doctors, lawyers and other service professionals. Advancements in neural technology are only one of the things that will make this possible.

    Quite scary almost to think that one day you will be able to load your iphone app and self-diagnose why you are feeling crappy in the morning. At the same time, good medical care should become more affordable for the average individual. Technology moves so quickly!

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