Brain benelles are at a crossroads. As Moore’s Law holds, and computing power doubles every two years, an alien species called artificial intelligence is being born. As a consequence, technology integration may become a desirable necessity for people.
Well, brain benelles seem to break into two parts: core and edge. Core is root structure; edge builds on core. Each part of the brain seems only to need a core number of benelles to function, with extra layers of edge benelles being a big bonus.
Modern humans achieved core intelligence a long time ago. They painted on cave walls, invented the wheel, and decided one wife is enough.
Edge benelles evolved to add processing power. With more edge processing, instead of designing an abacus, you design an iPad. Having “more edge” appears to act like a chip having more transistors, which is a familiar concept: a new PC runs faster than an old one.
Edge intelligence has evolved over thousands of years, culminating in the cognitive elite. You know, the founders of a familiar search engine and social network, the cunning workaholics at Goldman Sachs, and the good folks who write Wikipedia.
Edge intelligence allows core to accomplish more, giving us a foundation to plan integration. Basically, we know that minor upgrades to the edge result in vast competitive advantages.
Serendipitously, integration at the edge should be safer and easier. At the simplest level, it’s like twist-tying technology to the outer layers of our brain, which is better than having to cut deep.
Actually, robots are already being wired to human brains. For instance, scientists took paralyzed Cathy Hutchinson, drilled a hole in her skull, and stuck a hundred needles into a spot of her brain. The needles connect to a gold wire, which provides “read access” to Cathy’s brain. A computer reads what she thinks, enabling her to control a robot arm.
Using animal models, the next step is to obtain “write access” to the brain, allowing a quad core to help us process more. To a computer, this is just a standard read/write operation. The basic idea is to safely attach a computer to the “edge” of the human brain, daisy-chaining a computer to wetware.
This would fool a brain into thinking it’s bigger than it is. As long as the native signal was read and converted back-and-forth in proper formatting language and voltage, an existing brain could be made two, three, or 5,000 times larger than it really is.
Hard drive storage could also be integrated, but would be higher risk, requiring access to the hippocampus. Alzheimer’s patients are an obvious candidate, but it remains to be seen if the “index” of what goes to a hard drive can be biologically maintained, such that our memories don’t get orphaned, which is low risk anyway, since this happens every time we forget something we’ve done. If the index must remain biological, it may require genetic engineering to enlarge parts of our brain. A template for engineering would be hyperthymesiacs like Mary Lou Henner, who can remember the specific details of everyday life since being a small child.
At a high level, the next 100 years could be taken to perform edge integration. This would put loads of people to work as experts, subjects, and staff. At first, people will prefer the idea of attaching computers to their heads only some of the time, but quickly, they will feel “naked” without the extra processing power, like being caught without an iPhone today. For me, this is perhaps the greatest mystery: that biology so eagerly seeks close integration with digital technology. Already, we have chosen shorter, more computerized forms of communication over old-fashioned “human” types. Maybe it is simply a survival instinct. Regardless, it is a bizarre facet of our journey in the universe.
On a tangent, once hard drives are successfully integrated with our brains, it will be interesting to see if memories can be transferred between people in exact form. Considering a DVD is 1’s and 0’s in prerecorded patterns for our eyes and ears, it’s not a stretch that memories themselves could be played in a DVD-like fashion between people’s brains. If so, you might experience life in emotional first-person as your grandmother, a rock star, or the Dalai Lama.