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Neural "Extension Cord" Developed

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the plug-'n'-play dept.

Biotech 141

moon_monkey writes "Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have developed a 'neural extension cord' by growing neurons attached to a microchip. The cord is made by gradually moving two batches of neurons apart, as they naturally grow towards one another. This biological 'data cable' could then interface with the brain once implanted, the researchers say." From the article: "...in the long run, it may not be necessary to interface directly with nerves at all. 'In Europe most researchers in this field are using non-invasive EEG,' [an outside researcher] explains... 'The signals are weaker so more complex processing is needed, but not having to perform surgery on the nervous system has many advantages,' [he] says."

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141 comments

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Interesting but... (5, Funny)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726230)

Is it compatible with Windows Vista's DRM requirements?

Re:Interesting but... (1)

Quasicorps (897116) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726276)

No. It won't be.

But they've already found a workaround.

Re:Interesting but... (3, Insightful)

kalleguld (624992) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726344)

Not if it runs Linux.

Re:Interesting but... (2, Insightful)

mastershake_phd (1050150) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726396)

Is it compatible with Windows Vista's DRM requirements?

And is keeping a copy of portions of copyrighted material in your brain legal? I know mine is full of Simpsons material.

Re:Interesting but... (2, Funny)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#17727138)

Is it compatible with Windows Vista's DRM requirements?

The roadmap has it slated for SP4; but I advise reading the EULA very carefully before installing.

And beware the blue haze of death all in your brain.

KFG

Understatement of the year (4, Funny)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726246)

not having to perform surgery on the nervous system has many advantages

I nominate this guy for the Understatement of the Year award.

Re:Understatement of the year (4, Insightful)

Divide By Zero (70303) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726428)

Frag that, chummer. I want my datajack, and I don't care how.

Re:Understatement of the year (5, Funny)

Lazerf4rt (969888) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726842)

OK, all you need are 8 of these neural data links, interfaced to a twisted pair cable. Plug that into a 10-BASE-T hub, and think really really fast to implement the 802.3 protocol in your brain. As long as you can remember your MAC address, you're golden.

Re:Understatement of the year (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17727640)

I know this is a joke, but only 4 wires out of a ethernet cable are used for 10 and 100Mbit. Of those two one is a return path...so really you just need two nerve paths, one in, one out.

Re:Understatement of the year (1)

MrAnnoyanceToYou (654053) | more than 7 years ago | (#17727986)

Bah. Who wants to interface at only 100Mbit?

My question is whether this will affect spinal column injuries.

Re:Understatement of the year (1)

ross.w (87751) | more than 7 years ago | (#17728832)

Don't forget to download your licence key from the server.

Re:Understatement of the year (1)

42nnn (967835) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726852)

if only i had Mod points +1 for shadowrun!

Re:Understatement of the year (1)

iago-vL (760581) | more than 7 years ago | (#17727174)

Just watch out for the Black IC!

Re:Understatement of the year (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17728266)

QFT.

Sign me the fuck up.

Oblig. (1)

knightmad (931578) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726256)

I, for one, welcome our energy sucking brain slaving Matrix overlords

I saw a subtitle for the matrix once... (3, Funny)

Jaqenn (996058) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726756)

I saw a subtitle for the matrix once for when Neo wakes up: "I'm lying naked in a vat of nutrients, with my bodily functions handled by tubes, connected to the internet by a fiber-optic cable wired directly into my brain...THIS IS LIKE A DREAM COME TRUE!!!"

Re:I saw a subtitle for the matrix once... (1)

Killall -9 Bash (622952) | more than 7 years ago | (#17727100)

http://www.duk0r.net/matrix/matrix1.php [duk0r.net]
originally done by Cr0bar from detonate.net.... back when that site had a pulse.

Re:Oblig. (1)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726782)

One sec, I just got a cellphone fedex'd to me from some Morpheus guy.

Re:Oblig. (1)

WafflesMcDuff (791660) | more than 7 years ago | (#17728076)

If you're going to use a parody of the Mentat Mantra from dune, at least do it right:

It is by caffeine alone that I set my mind in motion
It is by the beans of Java that my thoughts acquire speed
The hands acquire shakes
The shakes become a warning.
It is by caffeine alone that I set my mind in motion.

Power Strip (3, Funny)

eviloverlordx (99809) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726282)

Extension cords are well and good, but what we really need is a neural power strip. You can never have too many of those.

Re:Power Strip (2, Funny)

DBCubix (1027232) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726384)

USB gadgets are cool and everything, but I am waiting for the neural gadgets to warm my coffee, light silly lights, and the neural-powered George Foreman grill would be cool too.

Re:Power Strip (3, Funny)

xeromist (443780) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726926)

Yes, but for the typical slashdotter a neural powered grill might be a bad idea. Imagine the fire hazzard if they were hooked up when they read the latest DRM or MS article!!!

Re:Power Strip (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726754)

Me, I'm waiting for a droud a la Larry Niven's The Ringworld Engineers [amazon.com] . Aren't we all waiting to become drooling, grinning wireheads, spending 23 and a half hours a day with current going straight to the pleasure center of our brains.

Well, with the time one spends on Slashdot, maybe there wouldn't be much of a change...

Re:Power Strip (1)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 7 years ago | (#17728230)

Aren't we all waiting to become drooling, grinning wireheads, spending 23 and a half hours a day with current going straight to the pleasure center of our brains.

Speak for yourself. I just want a way to aim my car-mounted LMG while I drive.

Bring out the Squid. (2, Funny)

dw604 (900995) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726900)

I want a neural power squid [thinkgeek.com] .

Re:Power Strip (1)

downwithpeople (982809) | more than 7 years ago | (#17727018)

Or, more practically, a neural Surge Protector with battery backup (and a HUGE warranty!).

Re:Power Strip (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 7 years ago | (#17728764)

Don't you just hate it when you're sitting in the basement and need to poke your head into the kitchen to see what kind of food is available? The snag has always been that oh-so-short neck, but not anymore! Just plug this extension cord in and be free of that limitation. Wireless version to be announced.

oh yeah... (4, Funny)

macadamia_harold (947445) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726300)

The cord is made by gradually moving two batches of neurons apart, as they naturally grow towards one another. This biological 'data cable' could then interface with the brain once implanted, the researchers say.

That way, in the future, people can have an almost lifelike experience watching Ow! My Balls!

Re:oh yeah... (1)

vtolturbo (729585) | more than 7 years ago | (#17727616)

yeah, and men can finally experience menstrual cramping and childbirth. great... i'm much more interested in the experience of a female orgasm, personally.

Finally... (4, Interesting)

End Program (963207) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726304)

"Real" virtual p0rn!

Come to Papa, Jenna.

Re:Finally... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17726602)

Only on slashdot can the parent be moderated "Interesting"

sweet (1)

mastershake_phd (1050150) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726356)

Forget eyesight, I want sonar. Brain to brain networking would be cool to, maybe.

Re:sweet (2, Funny)

steveo777 (183629) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726952)

Brain to brain networking would be cool to, maybe.
Not if someone hacks into your brain and fills it with porn, penis enlargement, and second mortgage ads. Nothing worse than having to 'click-through' just to brush your teeth...

Re:sweet (1)

vtolturbo (729585) | more than 7 years ago | (#17727574)

with a little wifi and brain-to-wired network, i'm sure we could work out some rudimentary telepathy. who knows, maybe we could even manage to get 1200baud thought-sharing, though i doubt samba supports that.

Sound like the beginning of tuning (1)

hasmael (993654) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726470)

"researchers in this field are using non-invasive EEG"

I for one welcome our Emergents of the Emergency Overlords

Re:Sound like the beginning of tuning (2, Informative)

umdstu (978017) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726520)

I never realized how many idiot comments people made on /. until today.

Re:Sound like the beginning of tuning (4, Funny)

pluther (647209) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726560)

I never realized how many idiot comments people made on /. until today.

You must be new here.

Re:Sound like the beginning of tuning (1)

Cygnostik (545583) | more than 7 years ago | (#17728246)

Well yeah, lets just expect everyone to shut up unless they have something impressive to say! oops.

Re:Sound like the beginning of tuning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17728608)

Shut up, bitch.

How about repairing spinal injuries? (4, Interesting)

nizo (81281) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726506)

I know several people with severe spinal injuries that could potentially benefit from something like this. Heck using this to restore the use of amputated and reattached limbs/appendages springs to mind as well.

Re:How about repairing spinal injuries? (2, Funny)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 7 years ago | (#17727106)

How about attaching a THIRD arm somewhere? I often find I need more than two. Hell I want SIX arms like that Indian goddess Whazzername! Finally I'd be able to carry the groceries, scratch my nose, find my keys and smack the kids all at the same time! Awesome!

Re:How about repairing spinal injuries? (1)

NMerriam (15122) | more than 7 years ago | (#17727894)

How about attaching a THIRD arm somewhere?


While on the one hand it sounds useful to have the extra manipulative ability, on the other hand you'd have to redesign clothes and cars and many things we interact with to take advantage of it. On the gripping hand, you would FINALLY HAVE A GRIPPING HAND!

Re:How about repairing spinal injuries? (1)

zCyl (14362) | more than 7 years ago | (#17728812)

How about attaching a THIRD arm somewhere?

While on the one hand ...

I think we can come up with some better locations to attach a third arm.

Re:How about repairing spinal injuries? (1)

wolfneuralnet (642197) | more than 7 years ago | (#17728274)

This technology was originally developed (2001) to do just that. The intention was to make a "bridge" between the white matter of the anterior portion of the spinal cord the grey matter below. Any communication between the two would eventually reroute the connections that were still available coming down from the brain to cells (motor neurons that go out to the limbs for example) that were still responsive below. The animal implants are in progress now, and they do show nice integration with the host spinal cord.

Yay Degree (4, Funny)

unchiujar (1030510) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726508)

Instant learning for classes. No I can finally finish college.
I knew procrastinating worked...

Hey -- wait a minute... (3, Funny)

wtansill (576643) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726530)

"...in the long run, it may not be necessary to interface directly with nerves at all. 'In Europe most researchers in this field are using non-invasive EEG,' [an outside researcher] explains... 'The signals are weaker so more complex processing is needed, but not having to perform surgery on the nervous system has many advantages,' [he] says."
We at "Lobotomies 'R' Us" would beg to differ...

Re:Hey -- wait a minute... (1)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726840)

Don't worry, you can all get jobs in mainstream television.

Implications (5, Interesting)

RyanFenton (230700) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726540)

Sure - being able to read the impulses sent to muscles, immune systems, etc. will be great. Being able to interact with a truly naturally developed informational system can lead to a lot of obvious and non-obvious insights.

What would be fascinating is if we were to discover interfaces that allow contents of memory or other brain contents to be read in this way. Of course, this is the start of a lot of sci-fi stories, few of which have a good ending - but if we were able to use such 'clean' techniques to read and store at least some of the contents of minds, I still think it would be a very good net change. Even if very few things are able to be read, and even then very slowly, it would open up many important insights - how massively multi-nerve systems communicate, how memories change in terms of pure data.

On a personal level, it would be a really nice change to be able to leave behind a little undiluted, untranslated part of my memories and self in the world beyond genetics and teaching others, rather than just let it all rot or hope for a supernatural rescue. It's not the loss of the self that annoys me about our current idea of death, it's the total loss of information that we currently accept as part of the process. Even if it was just a database for others to query, I'd love for my raw memories to live beyond myself.

Ryan Fenton

Re:Implications (1)

Lazerf4rt (969888) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726696)

our current idea of death

Whose current idea of death? I assure you my current idea of death is quite different from yours.

Even if it was just a database for others to query, I'd love for my raw memories to live beyond myself.

You mean like Slashdot?

Re:Implications (1)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726828)

In most anyones current ideas of death, your memory's are no longer accessible to the living.
There.. fixed it for you! :)

Re:Implications (1)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726876)

>I'd love for my raw memories to live beyond myself.

I dont think that's possible. The patterns in the meat of your brain do not have some kind of universal or raw format. They would be a meaningless mess to another person in a best case scenario. Most likely they would be a painful epileptic seizure. Sorry but when the meat goes so does the memories. I'd start on my memoirs now if I was you.

Re:Implications (2, Funny)

FireFury03 (653718) | more than 7 years ago | (#17727118)

The patterns in the meat of your brain do not have some kind of universal or raw format.

You mean my brain doesn't use OOXML? But Microsoft told me.... :)

Re:Implications (1)

not-enough-info (526586) | more than 7 years ago | (#17727344)

The patterns in the meat of your brain do not have some kind of universal or raw format. They would be a meaningless mess to another person in a best case scenario. Most likely they would be a painful epileptic seizure. Sorry but when the meat goes so does the memories. I'd start on my memoirs now if I was you.
Just because the format isn't documented or understood, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Besides, the GP was asking for a way to get the information out and read, not to be used as-is. Even if it's only partial, I can see the value in that.

Partial data (1)

hypermanng (155858) | more than 7 years ago | (#17728732)

Having partial data from peoples' brains seems likely to be about as useful as 48 bits of a 128bit key - it might help in some way for those crunching the ciphertext, but on its own it's not going to make anything intelligible.

Re:Implications (1)

virgil_disgr4ce (909068) | more than 7 years ago | (#17728930)

The point was that there is NO format. NO format whatsoever. The only person/machine that could understand the brain patterns in the subject's brain is the subject's brain.

Re:Implications (3, Insightful)

ClassMyAss (976281) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726892)

What would be fascinating is if we were to discover interfaces that allow contents of memory or other brain contents to be read in this way.
This would be incredibly tricky, as there is no data format to speak of that the brain uses - program and data are all bound together in one messy lump. The parallel is actually very close to that of neural networks in CS: suppose you trained a network to implement some complicated function that had some parameters hard coded into it, like (for instance) to generate a sine wave at a few particular frequencies within some range of input. How would you go about reading those parameters from the weight structure? Your only option is really to look at and interpret the output, since the network has not necessarily encapsulated away the sine function and stored the parameters separately (though it might have). Such is the problem with the brain, at least barring some incredible discovery in neuroscience that shows us that the brain does have a central data repository. Alas, to my understanding, the data storage literally happens along the very connections that perform the data processing, so I doubt that this is feasible.

However, this is still a very interesting development, as neurons have proven to be quite adaptable, so one could (in theory) learn to recieve or transmit a data feed to an off-site storage location. What I see as more plausible is that one could in theory wean his/herself off of brain-based permanent memory and attempt to rely more and more on the external data feed. This is not as clean as a hard copy of the brain, but provided that the data path was sufficiently wide and the person was trained exceptionally well, could be a decent approximation, especially if you got skilled enough to subconsciously feed records of your thoughts and perceptions into your "backup." But I don't think it will be easy!

Gotta wonder who's going to weasel the patent system into blocking further inquiry on this one, though!

Re:Implications (1)

RyanFenton (230700) | more than 7 years ago | (#17727368)

Well, in any case, any access to the raw data of the brain would be an improvement to me. Even if all minds are incomprehensible mazes of virtual languages never spoken before in any other brain, I'd love the data itself to be collectible onto some medium. Given enough data sources, the steps each brain goes through to communicate with the outside world may be able to be decoded, and perhaps some day we may be able to at least have a simulation of previously recorded memory.

Much akin to the development of written word, or audio/video recording devices, I'm eager for any development which removes the fog of time from what others will be able to draw from history. The most efficient step along that path I can imagine now is being able to grab the raw contents of brains before they rot, and hope that some day, someone will be able to appreciate the smell of springtime, or the real feel of our time.

Of course though, the idea of being able to index brain contents through a spinal feed is unlikely - but I'd love to see what we can find by testing all the communication paths we have available into this neural world. Your idea of a actively mind-adapted memory chip is another path to the same idea.

Ryan Fenton

Re:Implications (3, Funny)

NMerriam (15122) | more than 7 years ago | (#17727932)

This would be incredibly tricky, as there is no data format to speak of that the brain uses - program and data are all bound together in one messy lump.


That's the clearest evidence against Intelligent Design I've heard all week. Everybody knows that a real God would have used a Model-View-Controller architecture.

Re:Implications (2, Insightful)

David_Shultz (750615) | more than 7 years ago | (#17727004)

You're reading into this technology much more than you should be -there's nothing there to even suggest that we can interface meaningfully with these new chips at all, let alone consciously using them as storage devices.

If you're looking for something that will maintain information about yourself after your death, it's called a book and it's been around for awhile. Write a diary or a biography if you feel so inclined.

Re:Implications (1)

FireFury03 (653718) | more than 7 years ago | (#17727048)

What would be fascinating is if we were to discover interfaces that allow contents of memory or other brain contents to be read in this way.

As an anti-terrorism measure, all citizens are required to have their brain contents submitted to a government database in real-time.

If you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to fear and anyone who does not agree to this measure must be a terrorist.

Re:Implications (1)

andphi (899406) | more than 7 years ago | (#17727584)

It is an interesting idea. One question, meant seriously: when dealing with external memories that belong to someone else, how do we sort out data from meta-data, or alternately, data that has rarely been accessed and must be got at through layers of meta-data?

I can imagine that there are portions of every person's memory that are rarely accessed but not so isolated as to die out entirely. Would that one spark still be raw, or would it have become re-contextualized by the act of accessing it?

Re:Implications (1)

RyanFenton (230700) | more than 7 years ago | (#17727754)

Well, the idea would be to just gather the data in a static state (even if reading is somewhat enforcing what is read at the time) in whatever imperfect state is possible, then have it in a format that can be queried as many times as needed without degrading or changing that data. Of course, there's many potential problems at every point - but hopefully the data combined with a structural image of the brain will give clues on what to look for next. I highly doubt that if we were able to get consistent data from enough brains that all of them would remain complete gibberish against any analysis. Brains have to work well enough to deal with a body, and also an outside world - learning how data and meta-data relate in the brain would be a fascinating stopping point, if nothing else.

Ryan Fenton

Neural Rape! (1)

Dareth (47614) | more than 7 years ago | (#17728710)

If this technology ever came to be, I would like to visit all of my old professors, most especially the math professors. And NO, I am not interested in getting their knowledge of math directly from their brain. I really, REALLY want to give them back everything I got from their classes. I can't think of a worse thing I could ever do.

Re:Implications (1)

permawired (906877) | more than 7 years ago | (#17729038)

You know... I was thinking that sounds like a good idea, but then I thought of what someone would see if they looked through my memories:

1) Go to work
2) Strive to not kill users and/or co-workers
3) Go home and drink beer
4) Pr0n
5) Sleep


Then again... it might make a nice self help video with a title to the effect of, "You have so much to live for" /cheers

Problems with this technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17726562)

If you have one of the older model brains without the polarized plugs, this setup may be troublesome. Also if you plug in more than a couple of brains, the cord gets real hot. And for the kayakers out there or those considering deployment of super-intellegent Christmas lights, the current versions are for indoor use only.

Hybrids (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17726566)

Now we can make hybrids to control the operation of our base stars!

We're almost there....

Long way to go yet... (1)

ZwJGR (1014973) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726580)

While being able to detect neural impulses and induce them in live connected nerve cells is an impressive feat, it does not really make deciphering or producing complex nerve signals, such as those associated with sight, hearing or thought, particularly easier.
The ability to apply a voltage to a few dozen nerve cells does not make it possible to interface with the human nervous system in a seamless way as is suggested as future advancement. I can only assume that this refers to a long time in the future, after a significantly increased pace of advancement. However this hopefully does not preclude the interception of basic muscle motor neurone impulses for prosthetic limbs, and the feedback into the nervous system of touch sensors on the end, perhaps, which is a more realistic and highly useful, for those affected, form of technology/research.

New Icon (1)

Lord_Slepnir (585350) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726612)

If any story deserves to have the "Bill Gates Borg" icon, it's this one.

Laziness (1)

Normal Dan (1053064) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726624)

I love hearing about this research. I'll be one of the first in line to get a brain-computer interface installed/implanted. It's been a long time dream of mine to be able to lay back and do some programming without having to lift a finger. I've already started working on my own EEG [sourceforge.net] , but I'm a bit too lazy to finish it. I have more to say, but I'm too lazy to continue typing.

Non-invasive EEG? (1)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726634)

Can anyone explain non-invasive EEG versus (I guess) invasive EEG?

Re:Non-invasive EEG? (1)

MyNymWasTaken (879908) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726706)

'Non-invasive' is probably being redundantly used to quickly describe an EEG - given that most people don't know what one is.

Medical Encyclopedia - EEG [nih.gov]
Electroencephalogram (EEG) [webmd.com]

An electroencephalogram (EEG) is a test that measures and records the electrical activity of your brain by using sensors attached to your head and connected by wires to a computer.

Re:Non-invasive EEG? (1)

Mprx (82435) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726796)

If you put the electrodes under the skull you get much better signal quality.

Re:Non-invasive EEG? (3, Informative)

David_Shultz (750615) | more than 7 years ago | (#17727196)

Can anyone explain non-invasive EEG versus (I guess) invasive EEG?

They don't mean "non-invasive EEG", they mean "non-invasive", which means no surgery is requried. This happens to be an EEG helmet. The alternative, "invasive", involves of course the surgical implantation of some interfacing device.

Briefly, non-invasive currently sucks. It's nice in that it can work by just wearing a helmet, but you can only (currently) reliably get one bit of information out of it (I vaguely remember hearing about someone getting two, not sure). non-invasive systems are also bulky and require a lot of preparation to use. Also, they require training to use the system and some people are incapable of using it.

Invasive kind of sucks because you have to have your head opened up, but the results are quite impressive. They have trained a rat to mentally control a water dispensing robot, and they have gotten a monkey to control a robotic arm, for example. Read "the Body Electric" by James Geary. Obviously it's harder to get testing on humans for invasive technologies off the ground.

I am Neo (1)

loggiew (1054880) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726658)

I know kung foo.

I am Monkeo (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17726888)

I know flung poo.

Re:I am Neo (1)

blake3737 (839993) | more than 7 years ago | (#17728420)

but obviously not the different between foo and fu ;)

USB 2.0 (1)

instagib (879544) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726768)

The days of the memory stick industry are counted ...

Re:USB 2.0 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17727416)

Considering how much I forget things, wouldn't this be a good thing for Memory Sticks? Although I doubt anyone would really want to have something Sony proprietary attached to their brain.

Nice, but (3, Interesting)

hypermanng (155858) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726770)

It's all well and good to "biopatch" if you will, but machine-biological interfaces are really the holy grail. Machine engineering is far easier than biological engineering, more replaceable, more durable, and eventually more versatile. If your arm is amputated, we can either restore some basic functionality with a neural extension cord, or we can put a big fat processor connected to precise abiological sensors on it to provide all the proprioceptive and tactile data the original arm would have supplied. The only problem is presentation of that data to our biological brains. For that we'd still need some sort of electrode grid or something. Not an easy problem, but at least if it's solved once it's more or less solved for all time. Trying to regrow biological parts involves a gajillion types of tissue and membranes and so on in bewildering variety. Nature did not design us for easy reverse engineering.

In any case, biopatching is great and tractible for reconnecting pieces that already fundamentally work, but for wholesale replacement at a high grade of function we still need that bridge.

Re:Nice, but (1)

FireFury03 (653718) | more than 7 years ago | (#17727220)

Machine engineering is far easier than biological engineering, more replaceable, more durable, and eventually more versatile.

More durable? When was the last time you saw a significantly complex machine that could run non-stop for 80 years or more?

Sure, it might be easier to replace broken parts on a machine, but those parts generally wear out a _lot_ faster than biological parts (which are usually inherently being replaced cell by cell throughout their life).

Exactly (1)

hypermanng (155858) | more than 7 years ago | (#17728656)

With machines, you can just replace damaged parts. Biological parts usually wear out even faster than machines, but as you point out there's mechanisms in place to repair the bioparts along the way. Think of modern manufacturing as being the repair process writ large and simplified. In that view, a number of 16th century windmills have far outlasted any of the biological machines that built them. Perhaps those are insufficiently complex to qualify in your mind, or maybe they are insufficiently non-stop in their operation. I would say they are nonetheless excellent candidates for comparison to, say a knee, which is a very complex device designed to accomplish a fairly simple task. Also, a knee in constant use without rest will break down in an awful hurry.

It would seem fairly easy to, when one's cybernetic arm is mechanically damaged, to take the spare out of your closet or whatever, flash the firmware with the virtual neural state of the damaged arm, and blammo, it feels exactly the same. Then you ship the damaged arm back to the manufacturer.

There are limits, of course. As long as the brain remains biological (and it seems likely to remain so for a long time) then one must have functioning metabolism feeding the brain, so full body replacements don't appear to be immediately in the offing. It might even be easier to "migrate" the mind from wetware to hardware than to work out ways to accommodate the incredibly convolute requirements of the various metabolic systems. "Easy" in the sense of being plausibly tractable by the end of the century.

I can see these extension cords might be useful (1)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726830)

I bet Barzan Ibrahim [bbc.co.uk] wished he had one.

oh man... (1)

icepick101 (901550) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726832)

i've wanted a neural jack ever since i first watched Johnny Mnemonic

From the Planetary Datalinks: (1)

Brunellus (875635) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726848)

I think, and my thoughts cross the barrier into the synapses of the machine, just as the good doctor intended. But what I cannot shake, and what hints at things to come, is that thoughts cross back. In my dreams, the sensibility of the machine invades the periphery of my consciousness: dark, rigid, cold, alien. Evolution is at work here, but just what is evolving remains to be seen.
Commissioner Pravin Lal, "Man and Machine"

Better than telecommuting! (2, Funny)

Zeek40 (1017978) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726850)

So does this mean I can finally just send my brain to work while I stay home without dieing? hmmm.... I'll need to grow hands from my brain too, so it can shut off the alarm clock on its way out.

Re:Better than telecommuting! (2, Funny)

corbettw (214229) | more than 7 years ago | (#17728182)

That would be the exact opposite of what a number of my coworkers do currently.

Other possibilities? (3, Interesting)

anethema (99553) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726930)

Would it be possible to use this or a similar technique to join breaks in the spinal cord? Maybe even for limited functionality if the 'bandwidth' of one of these cords isn't enough?

Re:Other possibilities? (1)

wolfneuralnet (642197) | more than 7 years ago | (#17728214)

This technology was originally developed (2001) to do just that. The intention was to make a "bridge" between the white matter of the anterior portion of the spinal cord the grey matter below. Any communication between the two would eventually reroute the connections that were still available coming down from the brain to cells (motor neurons that go out to the limbs for example) that were still responsive below. The animal implants are in progress now, and they do show nice integration with the host spinal cord.

Ok, you can attach that to my head... (1)

bruno.fatia (989391) | more than 7 years ago | (#17726958)

as long as the chip is not a Pentium 4.

I worry about the Ghost in the Shell. (4, Insightful)

WarlockD (623872) | more than 7 years ago | (#17727046)

One of the things I like about the TV series is the depth and the questions they pose about the issues with this technology.

Better question is if it can be stopped. The thing is that when you watch that series, you wonder about the safety rating of this technology. The first Window 95 computers were open to the world, internet wise, so will it be the same for the first 'cyber brain' installs? Will there be a point where you MUST have a retina mechanical replacement or atleast an optic nerve pass though just to read a book? Better yet, what about education? If all your books are DRM encrypted that is mandated to be bought from a school virtual book shop, used books, hell, books could just disappear. We talk about a lack of critical thinking NOW....

Heck, it even creates the ultimate lower class. Those who not only can't afford to eat, but due to the lack of implants, even achieve a decent job. I mean, it becomes a decision to have your entire body mechanically replaced for a 5 year mining contract or living at the lowest end of the spectrum.

Maybe I am over thinking this, but its psodo-mandatory that you have a state ID, why would some kind of implant.

Re:I worry about the Ghost in the Shell. (3, Insightful)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 7 years ago | (#17727448)

There's a tradeoff between "planning ahead" and "planning ahead so far that your plans have no chance of applying to the reality". You're risking the latter. An increase in understanding how our body works and how to interface with it / repair it is a good thing. Let's wait until we actually have prototype cybernetic implants working before we worry about the government making them mandatory.

People are too infatuated with the Frankenstein myth, the absurd belief that research is innately dangerous. Research is *essential*, and not something that we should be stopping just because someone can come up with some unlikely scenario in which new technology could cause problems.

Re:I worry about the Ghost in the Shell. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17728114)

the government making them mandatory.

Woo man, THAT would be REALLY horrible. Good thing he was just talking about it becoming mandatory just to convince someone to hire you, since companies wouldn't want to hire some meatbag who might get sick or injured or something. That would be merely terrible.

Re:I worry about the Ghost in the Shell. (1)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 7 years ago | (#17728516)

Whatever. It's still so far in the future that trying to make predictions like that is absurd. It's like if someone had tried to prevent the development of Velcro on the basis that it could be used to tie people into restraints easier.

Why the constant anti-evil slant? (1)

inviolet (797804) | more than 7 years ago | (#17727076)

but not having to perform surgery on the nervous system has many advantages,' [he] says."

Unless, of course, one happens to be an evil genius and/or mad scientist bent on evil world domination. I for one have had it with the constant anti-evil spin you brief mortals are constantly putting on scientific breakthroughs like this.

"What are we doing tonight, Brain?"
"The same thing we do every night, Pinky... no-longer-necessary surgery on the nervous system!"

Re:Why the constant anti-evil slant? (1)

BytePusher (209961) | more than 7 years ago | (#17728164)

This might have a slightly better ring to it: "What are we doing tonight, Brain?" "The same thing we do every night, Pinky... no-longer-necessary surgery on your central nervous system!" Just a thought.

I love when science fiction becomes reality... (1)

Grinin (1050028) | more than 7 years ago | (#17727372)

...at least when it is in a good and positive way.

I don't so much like it when its a "Big Brother" is watching your every key-stroke kind of way. (Hi BB!)

-2cents

I'm One step closer... (1)

ErrataMatrix (774950) | more than 7 years ago | (#17727456)

...to having my wet wire so I can download my engram to a black box. This will allow my program to run before hardware failure causes early termination and permanent data loss. Dreams anyone? I have dreams for sale.

Ghost In The Shell (1)

veredox (665953) | more than 7 years ago | (#17728050)

Not to mention that non-invasive EEG would be one way. I don't want anyone hacking my brain.

You still need a strain relief bushing (1)

mbstone (457308) | more than 7 years ago | (#17728260)

but not having to perform surgery on the nervous system has many advantages

You would still need to drill a hole in your skull and insert a little rubber grommet into the hole. Then, you tie a knot in the cord that is slightly larger than the grommet. This will keep people from accidentally tugging or jerking on the cord and pulling out part of your brain.
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