Our future brain: damage-resistant with unique new abilities

August 27 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Other   Year: General   Rating: 8 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

Neurons made from exotic nanomaterials could one day enable humans to survive even the most horrendous accident, and as a bonus, provide amazing new capabilities.

Nanoengineer John Burch, co-designer of the nanofactory video, Productive Nanosystems from Molecules to Superproducts, predicts that by mid-2030s, we could be replacing brain cells with damage-resistant nanomaterials that process thoughts much faster than today’s biological brains.

“The new brain would include our same consciousness, memories and personality that existed before the conversion,” Burch says, “but it would run much faster and would increase our memory a thousand-fold.”

In addition, others experts say, this futuristic brain will allow us to control the speed of our thoughts; we could jump from 100 milliseconds, the response time of today’s brains, to 50 nanoseconds, millions of times faster.

Creating thoughts at this speed would, in our mind at least, slow everything down. Our perception would speed up, but activities would appear to slow down as our brain ran faster. Events that seem like minutes would actually be happening in seconds.

Burch describes how we would switch to the new brain. A daily pill would supply nanomaterials and instructions for nanobots to format new neurons and position them next to existing biological brain cells to be replaced. These changes would be unnoticeable to us, but within six months, we would be enjoying our new brain.

The new brain will allow wireless interface with computers and other digital technologies. We could access the Internet, control electronics, and make phone calls, with just our thoughts. Or we could understand complicated subjects – even speak a new language – without need for study.

Should a person with the new damage-resistant brain die in an accident, their body could be a total loss, but the brain would survive. Biological brains die within minutes after the heart stops; our new brain will simply turn itself off and wait for a new power supply.

All memories and consciousness would remain intact after a fatal accident. Rescue workers would remove the brain from the deceased body and reinstall it into a newly-cloned body. The patient would ‘wake up’ in their new body and resume life, not even realizing they had died.

Would we feel depressed from dying? Maybe, but this might be offset with the joy of living in an upgraded body. Standard body clones in the 2030s could include stronger bones and muscles, skin that instantly repairs itself when damaged, and hair that changes style and color on demand.

Some ask, with all this technology in our bodies, will we still be considered human? Life extension enthusiasts point out that we already enjoy false teeth, titanium hip replacements, cochlear implants, and artificial limbs.

In the 2030s, some will opt for a complete body transformation, and with their new damage-resistant brain, will be confident that memories, emotions, personality, and consciousness will remain unchanged during the transfer. Afterwards they will feel awareness that they are the same person who existed before the transfer – with all their ‘humanity’ intact.

Could this bold vision happen by mid-2030s? Experts believe that it can. Nanotech and quantum computer advancements that forecast this “magical future” are already in early development stages today.

This article will appear in various print media and blogs; comments welcome. See other published work by Dick at http://www.positivefuturist.com and click on the “published work” tab.

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Comment Thread (8 Responses)

  1. Great post Dick! The video was very interesting and helped me to understand nano-assemblers better.

    I think replacing neural cells gradually may answer my concerns regarding transferring the “self” that I mentioned in my Demise of Death post. Though it still leaves room for doubt, replacing gradually seems more similar to the natural process than “uploading” all at once.

    In fact, watching the nano-assemblers reminded me a lot of the inner workings of a cell.

    Posted by: Mielle Sullivan   August 27, 2008
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  2. Brain replacement technology will not happen overnight.

    DARPA announced this week that they are developing an electronic chip that mimics the “function, size, and power consumption” of a cat’s cortex.

    However, three breakthroughs must be realized before a quality brain can be built: 1) scientists must unravel the mysteries of consciousness, which may be accomplished around 2020; 2) we need the number-crunching abilities of quantum computers to understand the functions of each neuron and its interactions with other neurons, which could happen around 2030, and 3) molecular nanotech, the ability to create things atom by atom, must be developed, which could happen by mid-2020s.

    Then if Burch, Kurzweil and other forward-thinkers are correct, neurons made from nanomaterials could be available by mid-2030s.

    But when this technology becomes available, it may not be readily accepted by the masses. Even though I am passionate about our “magical future,” I think I might feel queasy about jumping on this bandwagon myself. I would like to see a few close friends or relatives enhance their brains before I take the plunge.

    And even those who have enhanced brains could be hesitant to transfer their minds into a cloned non-biological body. This may take two or three decades before most people would “go all the way.” However by 2075 to 2100, nearly everyone will probably be converted and humanity will go forward as a non-biological Type 1 Civilization.

    Comments welcome.

    Posted by: futuretalk   August 27, 2008
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  3. I foresee a future where(in regards to the current subject) either one of two scenarios play out. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll simply out line my best and worst case.

    BEST: Brain replacement arrives and the people slowly trust it and move into their new minds. I personally think it might take centuries before the majority of biological humans take this huge leap of faith, with the “society of the future” taking shape around said sticks in the mud. The world of our dreams for people too afraid to move into the real future.

    WORST: Brain replacement is real, but the first lab to develop it is more interested in creating a new order than uplifting mankind. They use the commercially(or even freely) available “brain upgrading” programs to liquidate the majority of the population without killing their bodies, the possessed shells serving as advertisements for “The wonders of brain upgrades!” Once there is only a religious or otherwise technologically limited population left, they can be dealt with and the drones discarded how ever the new hegemony desires.

    Posted by: tk421   August 28, 2008
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  4. I think if we consider advancements in the technologies necessary to produce nanoneurons and mistake-free non-biological human bodies clones, it is pretty clear that the earliest we might expect this futuristic scenario is by mid-2030s, about thirty years from today.

    Other technologies that will advance during this same time period include education systems that are stronger in ethical and moral training than today’s classroom teachings, nanoreplicators that provide wealth and abundance for much of the world’s poor, driverless cars and pilotless air cars, and proactive healthcare that eliminates nearly all human diseases.

    Then add to this mix, household robots that become our friends, virtual reality systems not unlike the Star Trek Holodeck, and a terabyte-speed Internet providing everyone on Earth with all the world’s knowledge and you see a future unfolding with very little corporate greed, ethical conflicts, and one that offers the hope of a crime-free world.

    Should we make it to the mid-2030s, this “magical future” has an excellent chance of becoming reality. Of course there are many dangers today that could change the course of this future; terrorism, non-democratic nations trying to grab more resources and aggressive leaders like Bush who believes in force, not diplomacy.

    Will we make it? I believe we have at least a 50-50 chance of avoiding disasters today; and as I am a glass half full person, we will make it.

    Comments welcome.

    Posted by: futuretalk   August 29, 2008
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  5. Nice Fantasy, having all this technology developed, designed, tested and implemented in the next 25 years seems like a stretch. Don’t forget in this country it takes the FDA 5-7 years to approve a new cold medicine. I believe that this technology is feasible, But I would predict a date for it closer to the 2070s.

    Posted by: Realfuture   August 30, 2008
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  6. Carry me Home a short story on the transfer to memristor brains.

    Posted by: jdeethby   August 30, 2008
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  7. Realfuture, yes today the FDA slows their approval process to a snail’s pace because of a “better safe than sorry” policy brought about by many congress people who are not knowledge in medical science.

    However, in the future with quantum computer’s vast number-crunching abilities expected to arrive around 2020, most live clinical trials will be replaced with billions or trillions of simulations performed in a matter of hours, not years.

    And with artificial intelligence advancing by leaps and bounds, it is not unbelievable that the FDA might one day be replaced by a more logical machine intelligence that would not require lengthy approval times.

    I guess what I’m trying to say, if we multi-track the future; consider advances in other technologies and how they impact with each other; we can safely predict that our “magical future” will unfold exponentially.

    Posted by: futuretalk   August 30, 2008
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  8. “However, in the future with quantum computer’s vast number-crunching abilities expected to arrive around 2020, most live clinical trials will be replaced with billions or trillions of simulations performed in a matter of hours, not years.

    And with artificial intelligence advancing by leaps and bounds, it is not unbelievable that the FDA might one day be replaced by a more logical machine intelligence that would not require lengthy approval times.”


    Posted by: adbatstone80   September 03, 2008
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