Military Implants To Boost Memory
Our very own research agency DARPA has been working on implanting devices to improve memory - right into the brain.
If work being backed by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) goes according to plan, we one day will be able to implant chips into our brains that will make sure we never forget anything. And although this sounds like science fiction—perhaps a movie starring Keanu Reeves from the 90s—it’s quickly becoming a reality. Scientists have already tested out implants in people suffering from brain injuries to improve their memory, the defense agency announced at a conference in September.
DARPA has multiple brain-improvement projects in the works, but its Restoring Active Memory project (or RAM, an apparent play on the acronym for a type of computer memory) has a goal of restoring the memory functions of US soldiers returning from the battlefield with traumatic brain injuries. According to the Atlantic’s Annie Jacobsen, 300,000 soldiers came home from Iraq and Afghanistan with brain injuries. DARPA’s program aims to develop an implantable, wireless device that could aid those soldiers’ cognitive abilities both during and after wars.
To start, DARPA is working to figure out how neurons in the human brain actually encode memories—a daunting task in and of itself. Once those processes have been mapped out, scientists would then work to create computer models to mimic how the brain functions, with the end goal of being able to implant devices that could trigger those processes if neurons, or the connections between neurons, get damaged.
My favorite example of this idea in sf is the microsoft from William Gibson's 1984 novel Neuromancer.
The counters that fronted the booths displayed hundreds of slivers of microsoft, angular fragments of colored silicon mounted under oblong transparent bubbles on squares of white cardboard ... Behind [one] counter a boy with a shaven head stared vacantly into space, a dozen spikes of microsoft protruding from the socket behind his ear.
"Larry, you in, man?" She positioned herself in front of him. The boy's eyes focused. He sat up in his chair and pried a bright magenta splinter from his socket with a dirty thumbnail.
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