DARPA Is Planning To Hack The Human Brain So We Can “Upload” New Skills
DARPA, as in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has announced a program in which it wants to explore various ways to neurostimulate the brain by activating its synaptic plasticity. This is the brain’s ability to alter and rearrange itself by modifying the connections between neurons – which stands at the basis of learning. DARPA hopes that by developing this technology and safely subjecting the nervous system to this kind of a regimen, will allow any given brain to learn new skills and abilities more quickly. This endeavour is known as the Targeted Neuroplasticity Training (TNT) program.
The advantages of one such scientific breakthrough could be limited just by the imagination we currently possess as a species. This means that, instead of good old-fashioned learning, we could simply “download” new information into our brains and know how to do new stuff in a fraction of the time. This technology would be an obvious benefit for everyone, but the military will probably be the first to have this ability. That’s when a mission requires a specific set of skills and timing will be of the essence.
Now, as part of this TNT program, DARPA is currently funding eight simultaneous other projects at seven different institutions. These are all coordinated as part of the first study in the fundamental science required to achieve the ultimate goal. This first phase will end with human trials.
The first phase will be to unravel the neural mechanics and inner workings that will allow safe nerve stimulation in order to influence and speed up the brain’s neuroplasticity. The second phase of TNT will be to apply the technology in the form of several training exercises.
In order to ensure that the work done will stay practical and on course, foreign language specialists, intelligence analysts, and others who train personnel will work alongside the research team. They will compare the efficacy of using an implant as opposed to other non-invasive techniques. They will also look into the ethics of this sort of enhanced learning technique, as well as ways to avoid all sorts of side effects or other potential risks that may arise.
“The Defense Department operates in a complex, interconnected world in which human skills such as communication and analysis are vital, and the Department has long pushed the frontiers of training to maximize those skills,” Doug Weber, the TNT Program Manager, said in a DARPA press release. “DARPA’s goal with TNT is to further enhance the most effective existing training methods so the men and women of our Armed Forces can operate at their full potential.”
If the program will be a success, downloadable learning could be the next step in human evolution. Nevertheless, the potential ethical issues that arise with this sort of technology could be very dangerous, if left unchecked.