In 2017, you can have groceries delivered to your house via text, hang in a VR lounge with your far-away friends, and play video games with people in different countries, but you can’t “jack in”.
Will people soon be able to “download jiu-jitsu” like Neo?U.S. Military to Develop Matrix-like TechClick To Tweet
Many technological advancements are inspired by science fiction. Many of our modern-day directed energy weapons began their research and development during the “failed” Strategic Defense Initiative, which was dubbed the “Star Wars Project” by then U.S. President Ronald Reagan.
Ray Bradbury conceived “earbuds” in Fahrenheit 451.
While a Robocop may be a bit further down the tech-development rabbit hole we find ourselves in, something out of The Matrix, Ghost in the Shell, or Johnny Mnemonic may be right around the corner.
The U.S. Military recently revealed the $65 million USD Neural Engineering System Design (NESD) program to develop Matrix like technology. The human/computer interface would allow people to connect their brains directly to computers. The specific goal is to create a chip allowing a high-resolution brain interface.
“The goal is to achieve this communications link in a biocompatible device no larger than one cubic centimeter in size, roughly the volume of two nickels stacked back to back,” a DARPA official said.
As a result, as noted by DARPA, we could enable significant augmentations and therapeutic treatments to and for our brains. From healing the blind to helping paralysis patients walk again, the imaginable applications are potentially revolutionary. It could even become a tool for video games and virtual reality.
Most noteworthy, however, is the invention’s role in the creation of “super soldiers”.
The ambitious project comes in the form of multimillion dollar grants to five prestigious institutions that are a part of the NESD program.
Among them: Columbia University and the John B. Pierce Laboratory. While the theoretical focus is on precision and fidelity of computer/human connection, the practical applications are numerous. Phillip Alvelda, the founding Program Manager of the Neural Engineering System Design, elaborated on how the tech actually works:
“By increasing the capacity of advanced neural interfaces to engage more than one million neurons in parallel, NESD aims to enable rich two-way communication with the brain at a scale that will help deepen our understanding of that organ’s underlying biology, complexity, and function.”
The first year of the program’s focus is breakthroughs in software, hardware, and neuroscience as tested in animals and cultured cells. Phase II of the program includes working with the FDA on meeting regulatory standards. Finally, the program would culminate in human trials.
Master Chief, The One, or Potential Domination?
Fans of the Halo franchise can tell you all about biomechanically modified super soldiers.
Master Chief served as the poster child for the Spartan project (think Captain America, but on a much bigger scale).
Nevermind that the first test subjects for the Spartan program all died within a year of augmentation. And what about having your brain hijacked by malicious AI or good, old-fashioned human hackers? As with any futuristic idea, a direct human-to-computer interface comes with plenty of pros and cons.