Our brains may someday be able to directly connect to vast cloud-computing networks in real time, allowing us to gain Matrix-style instant access to the world's knowledge by simply by thinking about a specific topic, scientists claim. According to research published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, 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).
The B/CI concept was initially proposed by futurist-author-inventor Ray Kurzweil, who suggested that neural nanorobots could be used to connect the neocortex of the human brain to a "synthetic neocortex" in the cloud. Our wrinkled neocortex is the smartest, 'conscious' part of the brain, according to the researchers from the University of California, Berkeley and Institute for Molecular Manufacturing in the US.
Robert Freitas, senior author of the research, proposed neural nanorobots would 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," Freitas said in a statement.
"They would then wirelessly transmit encoded information to and from a cloud-based supercomputer network for real-time brain-state monitoring and data extraction," he said. This cortex in the cloud would allow "Matrix"-style downloading of information to the brain, the group claims.
"A human B/CI system mediated by neuralnanorobotics could empower individuals with instantaneous access to all cumulative human knowledge available in the cloud, while significantly improving human learning capacities and intelligence," said Nuno Martins, lead author of the research. B/CI technology might also allow us to create a future "global superbrain" that would connect networks of individual human brains and AIs to enable collective thought.
"While not yet particularly sophisticated, an experimental human 'BrainNet' system has already been tested, enabling thought-driven information exchange via the cloud between individual brains," said Martins. "It used electrical signals recorded through the skull of 'senders' and magnetic stimulation through the skull of 'receivers,' allowing for performing cooperative tasks," he said.
"With the advance of neuralnanorobotics, we envisage the future creation of 'superbrains' that can harness the thoughts and thinking power of any number of humans and machines in real time," he added. This shared cognition could revolutionise democracy, enhance empathy, and ultimately unite culturally diverse groups into a truly global society, researchers said.
According to the group's estimates, even existing supercomputers have processing speeds capable of handling the necessary volumes of neural data for B/CI. Rather, transferring neural data to and from supercomputers in the cloud is likely to be the ultimate bottleneck in B/CI development.
One solution proposed by the authors is the use of 'magnetoelectric nanoparticles' to effectively amplify communication between neurons and the cloud. Getting these nanoparticles and nanorobots safely into the brain via the circulation would be perhaps the greatest challenge of all in B/CI, researchers said.
(With inputs from agencies.)