A team has proposed using nanobots to create the ‘internet of thoughts’, where instant knowledge could be downloaded just by thinking it.
An international team of scientists led by members of UC Berkeley and the US Institute for Molecular Manufacturing predicts that exponential progress in nanotechnology, nanomedicine, artificial intelligence (AI) and computation will lead this century to the development of a human ‘brain-cloud interface’ (B-CI).
Writing in Frontiers in Neuroscience, the team said that a B-CI would connect neurons and synapses in the brain to vast cloud computing networks in real time.
Such a concept isn’t new with writers of science fiction, including Ray Kurzweil, who proposed it decades ago. In fact, Facebook has even admitted it is working on a B-CI.
However, Kurzweil’s fantasy about neural nanobots capable of hooking us directly into the web is now being turned into reality by the senior author of this latest study, Robert Freitas Jr.
This new concept proposes using neural nanobots to connect to the human brain’s neocortex – the newest, smartest, ‘conscious’ part of the brain – to the ‘synthetic neocortex’ in the cloud. The nanobots would then provide direct, real-time monitoring and control of signals to and from brain cells.
“These devices would navigate the human vasculature, cross the blood-brain barrier and precisely auto-position themselves among, or even within, brain cells,” explained Freitas. “They would then wirelessly transmit encoded information to and from a cloud-based supercomputer network for real-time brain-state monitoring and data extraction.”
Things get even wilder when you consider the fact that this could allow for a Matrix-style ability to download reams of information into the brain. The B-CI could even enable us to create a future ‘global superbrain’, according to the team, connecting networks of human brains and AI to form a hive mind.
Dr Nuno Martins, lead author of this latest research, said such mass collective thought could revolutionise humankind. “This shared cognition could revolutionise democracy, enhance empathy and ultimately unite culturally diverse groups into a truly global society,” he said.
Unsurprisingly, it’s not that simple
Looking at what the challenges are for a working B-CI, the team sees the transfer of neural data to and from supercomputers in the cloud as being the biggest stumbling block.
“This challenge includes not only finding the bandwidth for global data transmission,” Martins said, “but also how to enable data exchange with neurons via tiny devices embedded deep in the brain.”
A potential workaround proposed by the team includes magnetoelectric nanoparticles that could amplify this communication, something that has already worked in testing with mice. However, how to actually get these nanorobots into the brain safely is considered the project’s greatest challenge.
“A detailed analysis of the biodistribution and biocompatibility of nanoparticles is required before they can be considered for human development,” Martins added. “Nevertheless, with these and other promising technologies for B-CI developing at an ever-increasing rate, an ‘internet of thoughts’ could become a reality before the turn of the century.”