- Futurists and science-fiction writers speculate about a time when brain activity will merge with computers.
- Technology now exists that uses brain signals to control a cursor or prosthetic arm. How much further development of brain-machine interfaces might progress is still an imponderable.
- It is at least possible to conceive of inputting text and other high-level information into an area of the brain that helps to form new memories. But the technical hurdles to achieving this task probably require fundamental advances in understanding the way the brain functions.
The cyberpunk science fiction that emerged in the 1980s routinely paraded “neural implants” for hooking a computing device directly to the brain: “I had hundreds of megabytes stashed in my head,” proclaimed the protagonist of “Johnny Mnemonic,” a William Gibson story that later became a wholly forgettable movie starring Keanu Reeves.
The genius of the then emergent genre (back in the days when a megabyte could still wow) was its juxtaposition of low-life retro culture with technology that seemed only barely beyond the capabilities of the deftest biomedical engineer. Although the implants could not have been replicated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or the California Institute of Technology, the best cyberpunk authors gave the impression that these inventions might yet materialize one day, perhaps even in the reader’s own lifetime.
This article was originally published with the title Jacking into the Brain.