Digital BrainA report out today from The Royal Society looks at the history, advancements, challenges and risks of neural interface technology.

The report asks for input from the general public via a consultation on what their views in shaping the future of neural interface regulation.

We have visualised the connection of humans and machines in Science Fiction for a long time from books to films. More recently with films such as Johnny Mnemonic and The Matrix, (Yes I just referenced 2 Keanu Reeves films). Are we ready to become Borg and be assimilated?

Medicine is evolving at a fantastic speed with new developments that are helping patients to help treatments for a wide range of conditions using non-invasive and invasive technologies. Should we now use the same techniques for connecting a human brain to a computer to make us more efficient and responsive to information?

“Neural interfaces connect the brain or nervous system to

equipment, typically digital devices or IT systems. Some act to
record physiological activity, such as brain signals or movements,
while others stimulate it. Some technologies, known as ‘closedloop’ systems, record activity and deliver stimulation in response.”

Source: report


We are already doing this with devices we use on a daily basis such as a mobile phone, reality glasses and cars with heads up displays. Moving this information closer to the brain is the next technological evolutionary step in this area.

Elon Musk’s Neuralink is looking at how its possible to connect computer chips to the human brain and has already connected a Rats brain to a chip and USB port.

The report represents some of the advancements made and possible ways forward that are helping people today and helps set out some principles and practices. A worthwhile read.

For me there are still a lot of areas to discuss ethically around moving forward – Just because we can doesn’t mean we should.  I think that the quote in the report by Paul Virilio covers this and what we need to think about and accept the outcome possibilities:

“ When you invent the ship, you also invent the shipwreck; when you invent the plane you also invent the plane crash; and when you invent electricity, you invent  electrocution… Every technology carries its own negativity, which is invented at the same time as technical progress.” – Paul Virilio

Source: report

Further Reading