January 24, 2016
War may be as old as time itself, but the technology behind it seems to be developing at a breakneck speed. And in the United States, cyborg soldiers are inching closer and closer to reality, as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) seeks to develop an implantable brain chip that would create a direct connection between a human and a computer. The bionic man is slowly being built, and sadly, it looks like he’s being sent to battle.
The goal of such a chip would be to relay information at unprecedented speeds, both from the front lines control centers and vice versa. DARPA’s Neural Engineering System Design (NESD) program has been charged with developing a neural interface that creates “unprecedented signal resolution and data-transfer bandwidth” between the human nervous system with digital devices like computers.
It’s still a ways away from becoming a real and usable piece of technology, but the NESD signals renewed efforts by the U.S. military in this direction. “Today’s best brain-computer interface systems are like two supercomputers trying to talk to each other using an old 300-baud modem,” said Phillip Alvelda, NESD manager for Darpa. “Imagine what will become possible when we upgrade our tools to really open the channel between the human brain and modern electronics.”
In a plan that does sound a bit Jason Bourne-esque, DARPA plans on hosting a meeting in early February in Arlington, Virginia, in order to recruit candidates for the NESD program. It is estimated that the program will rack up charges of around $60 million over the next four years.
If their efforts were to prove successful, it would mark incredible breakthroughs on a number of different fronts, including neuroscience, synthetic biology, low-power electronics, photonics, medical device manufacturing and packaging, and clinical testing. And sure, the initial focus is on cyborg soldiers, but the implications of such technology would be pretty far-reaching.