Your Brain Has Been Hacked!
They say you only use 10% of your brain (which is sadly, a fallacy of sorts). Being human, we’ve decided enough with traditional learning and the patience it requires. In order to fill up that remaining “90%”, we’ve turned to electronics and the phenomenon of directly interfacing computers to our brains. Welcome to brain hacking, folks. We did, in fact, invent sliced bread: so why not, right?
We’ve explored things like virtual reality on Jarkable, but this idea takes things to a whole new scale. The idea of brain hacking has been going on since the early 90s, which is incredibly stunning, given the infancy of the internet at that time. There are two facets of brain hacking I will explore with what I’m dubbing Brain 2.1 (2.0 was taken):
- The exploration of physically uploading programs to the brain or a type of hyper-learning.
- The idea around carbon copying your brain to a computer, so as to live on in digital-immortality.
If there is proof that brain hacking actually can work, the consequences are limitless. Hopefully by the time you are “reading” this, your brain has been hacked and you’ve literally downloaded this article into your consciousness.
The HyperLink via Brain Hacking
Ever try to learn a new ability? Maybe it’s guitar, shooting a basketball or investing in bitcoin. The boring, human, way of doing things is to mundanely practice said task over and over again until it’s baked in the mind. This is literally how we learn. Repetition facilitates new connections in the brain, and these new connections represent your growth in learning a new skill. As defined by Queensland Brain Institution, the change that occurs at synapses, the junctions between the neurons that allows them to communicate is called synaptic plasticity. Synaptic plasticity is the technical behind the learning process. If it sounds intense, it’s because it is. We’re talking neuroscience, folks.
The scientific community has spent some time understanding how the brain works and, incredibly, have narrowed down where concepts like learning physically exist in the brain (among other phenomenon). Once scientists understood the key elements in learning process, then it was time to hack the mind. Why wait for knowledge when you can expedite the process — think of Amazon Prime for your brain.
The basic idea is to stimulate parts of the brain with direct current (DC). The concept is shockingly straightforward, in theory (see what I did there?). Though the technical application of the electrodes is important, once the correct part of the brain is identified, these little shocks greatly help synaptic plasticity. So effectively, the electric shock can potentially strengthen those bonds faster than traditional learning. These small shocks are like steroids for the brain, making it faster and stronger, but with potential drawbacks as well. The difference with this process is some of those unintended consequences are still unknown.
With these electrode kits commercially available, we may have some of those answers sooner than later. People are exploring alternatives to debilitating diseases or are searching for the competitive edge that comes with faster learning. In either case, they represent the lab rats that will produce data that will be analyzed for years to come.
Furthermore, commercial consumers aren’t the only ones interested in this technology, so too are the government entities. DARPA has actively been investigating this process since 2016 with its own funding. Right or wrong, people are choosing to blaze a path forward in this potentially groundbreaking arena. The question now is, once we forge forward and accumulate all this knowledge, how do we backup our new shiny computer brains?
CC: YOUR BRAIN
Brain capacity is a tricky thing. My ability to remember things I learned when I was younger has diminished. As mentioned prior, if those bonds formed during learning are not maintained, they can diminish over time. Given I haven’t put the majority of my scholastic learning to use, those skills begin to fade. So what’s a human to do? Well, since we are uploading programs through computers, makes perfect sense that we backup our systems. Coincidentally, that’s exactly what is being developed as we speak.
If you’ve ever dealt with a computer, you know that it’s prudent to back it up at regular intervals. Though some may fall short on this front, hopefully we can appreciate the concept behind it. Scientists are actively attempting to backup our brains via brain hacking. If successful, the possibilities are endless — even scary.
The process is convoluted at best; however, these brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) being developed have demonstrated some success. The general concepts can be boiled down to this:
- Electrically connect a computer to the brain
- Intercept electrical signals being transmitted in the brain
- Decode, copy or interpret the data, and re-introduce into the brain
Essentially, think of it this way. You’re baking a cake and have all the ingredients you need. You’ve mixed the batter and are ready to bake but your oven is inefficient and takes too long to bake. You call a friend who has flawless and efficient oven. The batter is sent over to the friend, but you forgot to send baking instructions. So instead, the friend interprets what ingredients it has and what the optimal bake time should be based on the batter. Not only do they bake the cake, but they do it in the most efficient way possible, then hand it back to you exactly as you would expect, for the icing.
This is the idea behind some of the BCIs being developed. They are attempting to enhance the processes in the brain and then are uploading the translated code back into different parts of the brain for faster integration. Additionally, what they are doing is mapping areas of the brain and optimizing the code to interface with all sections. Taking this work a step further: if you can map parts of the brain, what stops you from mapping all the parts together into one full picture for a given brain?
This leads us to the idea of carbon copying the brain. If they are reading and writing data being transmitted in the brain, they then should have the ability to copy that code directly in a computer for later use. When you boil it down, this is all electrical processing after all, both in the brain and on computers. The full idea is that they eventually copy your entire brain on a computer cloud. (Pausing to digest that information).
Brain Hacking: The Future
Now get your can opener and open that can of worms. Is it ethical? Can you fully copy one’s consciousness? It’s one thing to map certain memories, but can you truly copy a feeling associated with that memory or learning? Furthermore, if you can do that, then what stops us from making artificial body parts and creating a new brain from the carbon copy to form another you? Yikes is right.
This leads me to ask, where exactly does the conscious live? The key to being you today is your awareness that you are you. So if you can copy that, are you omnipresence in your carbon copy as well? This is where my brain freezes. This stuff has crossed my mind before with the idea of cloning humans, but this seems to be a whole different level of manipulation when you bring the consciousness factor into the discussion.
The possibilities — and subsequent dangers — are endless in these developments. Obviously, there will be a ton of oversight into what’s going on, but my money is on this not being controlled from the onset. By the time the regulation comes, we will already have an idea of where this is headed and it could be too late, depending on your view of the risks. Either way, it’s fascinating to think that immortality is being worked on every day. You then must ask, do we think it’s worth it in the long run? Let the debate rage on.
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