Brain Implants: Hype or Hope | Katina Michael | TEDxASU



[Applause] ladies and gentlemen welcome to my presentation on brain implants hope hope or hope the brain is one of the largest and most complex organs in the human body the cortex the brainstem the basal ganglia and the cerebellum help us to do things like think and move breathe and sleep and coordinate messages to different parts of the body and then we have the frontal lobe the temporal lobe the parietal lobe and the occipital lobe which are used for problem-solving and judgment and motor function for memory and hearing and visual processing the brain is made up of more than a hundred billion nerves they communicate in trillions of connections called synapses the synapses are structures that allow our neurons to pass electrical and chemical signals to one another choo choo it's mind-blowing to think that each of us as we go about our day is carrying one of the deepest network of networks that has ever existed but sometimes neurons take an abnormal turn and die out and cause brain disease like Parkinson's that's where neuro prosthetic devices come in they connect directly to the person's brain either placed on the surface of the brain or the brains cortex and they used to stimulate those neurons back to life the restorative surgical procedure costs up to $100,000 and is the only hope some patients have especially when they become resistant to pharmaceutical drugs I want to live in this example we see a patient undergoing a deep brain stimulation stereotactic neurosurgery operation in France which will help to treat his Parkinson's disease by implanting electrodes in the brain abnormal cerebral electrical activity is modulated and so the patient can walk and talk again and do both at once it's remarkable and it works the technique has also been applied to major depressive disorder but only as a last resort and with markedly different levels of success some patients about a third go into remission after the operation but about two-thirds it doesn't work and it's such an invasive operation which raises questions about how far we go and so I posed the question a brain implants our plausible future and what we consider repurposing them for everyday use beyond therapeutics maybe for entertainment as one example Facebook in 2017 revealed it had 60 engineers working on brain two computer interfaces that would let you type with just your mind you think about it and the words would appear on the screen scanning your brain a hundred times per second using optical imaging now scientists entrepreneurs philosophers and buyer hackers have long pondered on how we could overcome death and disease they state the following possibilities with the aid of technological intervention how can we live forever in other words one way is to embed tiny nanobots throughout our whole body maybe 20,000 of them so they can monitor our vital signs and physical characteristics and provide care on demand through Internet of Things devices that are working autonomously in the body and in the bloodstream another as demonstrated here in the Smithsonian Institute is to replace the dying organs with biomechanical systems we just need our brain don't we and to just jack in with a computer and leave your body stationary as it decays and is replaced by machinery just let your mind go logically and let it free and the final reductionistic possibility is to keep the brain and nothing else now over the next few minutes I'm going to take you on an intricately woven thought experiment I don't want you to be bound by what you know this is what happens when all that is left of you is just the brain kept alive by the Earth's tool or occurrence are you ready are you ready Act one imagine you are weightless without pain or suffering there are no deadlines or demands everything is just perfect you don't hunger you don't thirst you don't have to pay bills or take pills and your state is neither exceedingly joyous nor is that exceedingly said you are in harmony with everything around you there is no noise that will take you out of this state of being no traffic on the road to slow you down and you're on the back porch sitting on your swing chair with a light breeze in the shade and your favorite book is in one hand and you are clasping the hand of the one you love in the other and you say to yourself this is as good as it gets and suddenly you feel yourself drifting drifting drifting and when you wake up after the anesthetic has worn off you find yourself reaching out with your mind's eye and the book is then you can recount every word on every page your brain has set you free and you find yourself reaching out into the vast open expanse where there is no up or down or left or right you connect with all those people who have ever read the book and you feel their understanding in the inner core of your heart and spirit for some the book was torturous and for others it was a happy experience but all now have the awareness of how the book was integral to their life at this time of the billions of people in the world only a small number have been freed from the tyranny of death but you hope through all to be saved before too long or you begin to share your own reflections of the book effortlessly it's coming out of your mind without thinking and you catch a glimpse of a tiny tiny insect next generals have taken you here to see the digital vortex to become one with creation you are a tiny round egg you hatch and you turn into a caterpillar then you form into a chrysalis and undergo the most remarkable of transformations you are undergoing metamorphosis the tissue the limbs and the organs of the caterpillar have all been changed it is now time for the butterfly to be released and so it begins to pump blood into its wings and then it will get to fly find the mate and reproduce beginning the process all over again you realize you no longer have to put on the goggles to live an augmented reality you are reality actor the year is 2040 five you are born life arc administer a screen blood test for the nine major diseases that once plagued humankind and the 17 new giant viruses that have been introduced via CRISPR reengineering your cord blood is collected because it can bring you back to life over and over again if you choose to have biological children these days you undergo a very short procedure to allow the biology to continue to thrive under the contents constant surveillance of physical interfaces you become the electrophorus a bearer of light ambient intelligence you now transform into something other than what you were born into the world at age 12 you would jack into the collective super brain this life would be incredibly free we could read all the books in the world we could remember everything we wanted to remember on-demand we could relive the best moments of our life over and over and over and over and again my brain implants could help me be a cheater and not just imagine being a cheater but a cheetah in all its cat-like qualities the next day I mean might wish to be water the following enveloped by the sky and I could morph into a rainforest a tree that is thousands of years old and even find myself hanging from a mountains edge without the fear of falling all my transactions would happen via blockchains of universality I could live forever my name could be calculated using binary I could simultaneously be with others all at once and if I wanted to be alone I would make myself lost in the furthest part sometimes that place would be on Mars and sometimes on another universe but other times it would be on a little-known server or channel where no one could find me I would not simply imagine growing from a seed to a flower I would germinate like a flower reproduce and pollinate and spread my digital hash with other next genna's ladies and gentlemen therein ends the allegory portion of my presentation in x1 until I postulated what it might be like if we merge the wetware with the hardware and we free ourselves of the body which dies is there anything wrong with his future imposing a techno centric existence where society becomes technology where the focus is not only on creating Bionic supermen and cyborgs super women through technology enhancements & amplifications but on our very brazenness to think there must be a technological solution for trampling down every disease and even death did we not learn anything from the ancients who decided to build a big big tower in the hope they would reach the heavens these engineers displayed hubris we've been there before two of our greatest thinkers Plato and Aristotle warned that techne should be subject to reason and law that techne was an imperfect human imitation of nature so why have we gradually moved away from seeking out metaphysical connections and what is this doing to us while we are busy entertaining implants of all kinds outside the world is crying out for help we just cannot say we got this wrong so let's be done with it and move on before it's too late our earth resembles the state of our inner heart we are becoming of our environment something has ruptured in our society over a quarter of British young women between the ages of 16 and 24 have self-harmed an experience anxiety or depression and that number is rising year-on-year and one in seven of these women have post-traumatic stress disorder and they have never ever been to war how mental health crisis is not only merely by neurobiological but psychosocial but don't worry we'll fight the war on depression with the ultimate weapon brain implants brain implants to combat the problem of too much technology when things get too difficult we can switch off in reboots and make ourselves artificially happy again ladies and gentlemen we are becoming entangled in the cables and wires we lost for high-tech but have no overload switch and are short-circuiting as a result our kids just want us to look at them but we can't disconnect from our smartphones we love our computers but they do not love us and never will we are spontaneous beings and microchips are simply random generators machines don't dream machines don't pray machines don't thirst machines don't know what it's like to be homeless mimicry is not the real thing for our own homes we invest in next generation AI surveillance hubs that take note of our every action and listen to our every word all the while deconstructing our uniqueness in the name of safety convenience and productivity we have fallen in love with the vampyre and instead of resisting we beckon him for would take the first bite right here I know what you're about to do to me just do it we are living in a zombie apocalypse it is difficult to detect because in this instance there is no blood and we have all become normalized if we are hooked now wait to the implantables get under our very skin and into our heads and our bodies we have already heard about brain and heart pacemaker security vulnerabilities has anyone considered death by Internet the ultimate uber violence risk social theorist CS Lewis in 1943 call this the slumber of cold Volga he was referring here to the abolition of man that man would be reduced to nothing but a head that would finally self-destruct as depicted in his book that hideous strength no I want to live as a human I want to place my Aeon My Beloved's chest and hear his heartbeat forever skin to skin I want to bleed if I cut myself accidentally and I want there to be a hand to reach out to when I'm in need our life is not a video game we are not living in a simulation this is it ladies and gentlemen to conclude machinery and technology used to be used for the betterment of humankind and not for its subservience technique used to be complementary to our endeavors where we were in partnership with the engineering for example to build bridges however we have gradually moved away from this healthy synergy where we are not only becoming faceless numbers but are deconstructing the basic building blocks of life we need engineers to step up and take responsibility but at the building and ethical levels of their work there is a rightful place for science and technology we need a new breed of practitioners who will build with meaning for urgent needs of humankind yes yes exactly there are no limits to innovation none but when technology itself may involve a wrongful use of humans animals or natural things we should say we go no further the choice is ours and so are the consequences thank you [Applause]




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