Brain replacements could prevent accidental deaths in future

April 29 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future
Category: Health & Medicine   Year: General   Rating: 8 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

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

Nano-engineer John Burch, co-designer of the nanofactory video, “Productive Nanosystems: from Molecules to Superproducts,” believes that by as early as the 2030s, we could be replacing our brain cells with non-biological nanotech materials that process thoughts faster, and is nearly indestructible.

“The new brain would include an exact copy of our memories and personality that existed before we converted”, Burch says, “but it would run millions of times faster and would increase our memory a thousand fold. In addition, this futuristic brain will allow us to control the speed of our thoughts; we could jump from 100 milliseconds, the response time for biological cells, to 50 nanoseconds – 20 million times faster”.

Creating thoughts at this speed would, in our mind at least, slow the world down by a factor of 20 million. Our perception would speed up, but physics limits how fast we can move, so to us, the world would seem to slow as our brain ran faster. Think of what this means. In an emergency, we would have time to think and plan. Events that seem like hours to us would actually be happening in a split second. (cont.)

Burch describes the following procedure to ‘switch’ over to the new brain: a daily pill would supply the body with nanomaterials and instructions for nanobots to format the new neurons – one-by-one – and position them next to existing biological brain cells to be replaced. These changes will be unnoticeable in our mind, but in just six months, we will be enjoying the benefits of the new brain.

Since nanotech brain cells are smaller than their organic counterparts, there’s plenty of room to add more memory. This would provide many new features and benefits; we could access the Internet with just our thoughts, install backup units to replace failing neurons, and understand and speak another language, or master a complex subject without need to study.

Neurons made from powerful nanotech materials will be nearly indestructible compared with biological brains. Should a converted person die in an accident, their body may be a total loss, but the new brain could even survive an explosion and quickly regain all functions. Biological brains die within minutes after the heart stops; our new brain simply turns itself off and waits for a new power supply.

All memories 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 as if nothing happened. Of course one might feel depressed over dying, but this could be offset with happiness of experiencing life in a new, upgraded body.

As non-biological brains become affordable, some may want to swap their body for a new one with improvements – like intelligent immune systems, diamond-reinforced bones, and skin that changes color on demand.

Though some may view this technology as distorting our view of what it means to be human, others, including this writer, believes that brain replacements bring us one-step closer to a ‘magical future’.

How would you feel about having your brain installed in a new body?

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Comment Thread (2 Responses)

  1. If we experienced life at a pace 20 million times slower, we’d better have some internally-set option to “zip” past at close to the rate we experience it now.

    Assuming we could do that, it’d probably be possibly to increase the perceived speed even more (by slowing down brain cycles to below biological rates). Tired of waiting for your turn for an appointment? Sit back, relax, and think your brain into “fast-forward” mode and your turn will come up in seemingly no time!

    I’ve often felt like, as I get older, the hours and days seem to go more quickly. As a child, getting through hour-long classes would often be torture, and I wondered just how I’d be able to get through a 9-hour workday later in life. But in college years and afterward, classes up to three hours long would be quite bearable.

    Do the days truly seem to go by more quickly as one gets older, for most people? If this is a general phenomenon, I wonder if it could be due to cycles of brain activity taking longer – the “snapshots” of the real world gleaned through the senses get further and further apart, which to us would make it seem that time was progressing faster. (Think about a movie played with every other frame removed – it would seem to be playing in double speed.)

    Next question I ponder – why would brain cycles slow down as one gets older? Does the rate of transmission of impulses from one neuron to another neuron slow? Does the brain construct longer pathways on average over time goes on, comparing sensory information to more and more concepts and memories on each pass?

    I don’t know if there’s any current knowledge or research underway that would elucidate this – thoughts welcome.

    Posted by: gremlinn   April 29, 2008
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  2. I think like Burch says, we will be able to control the speed at which we process data. I see this as a huge advantage if we want to run “what if” simulations to the outcome of our actions when faced with decision making. By examining thousands of possible repercussions to our actions in a second or so, it will be nearly impossible to make an incorrect decision. Being right all the time has got to be an exhilarating experience.

    Regarding older people (like this 77-year-old) processing thoughts at slower rates than when we were younger, it is my understanding that our neurons thin out as we age. They just die and new ones aren’t created to take their place; we can slow this down a bit with heavy brain activity, but eventually, it takes its toll.

    That is why Burch’s scenario sounds so attractive. Personally, I can’t wait for neuron upgrades to become available. It may not happen until mid-2030s or so, but according to Kurzweil and other forward-thinkers, this future will become reality. If other technologies like biotech and nanotech advances can keep me alive and turn me into a healthy centenarian, then I’m there.

    Posted by: futuretalk   April 29, 2008
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