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Would you let a computer interface with your brain?

As we inch closer to a reality that might contain meaningful two-way communication between humans and computers, the questions we need to ask ourselves are not scientific, but ethical.

Brain research is on a roll at the moment, and infusing thousands of wireless devices into your brain to both monitor its activity and directly influence its actions is not very far from us.

Spurring the field on is the medical implications for diseases like Alzheimer's, or the possibilities for highly enhanced rehabilitations and advanced prosthetics. But the problem is that new brain technologies will have the potential to alter how someone thinks, feels, behaves and even perceives... and what's most frightening is that it may not necessarily be within their control or with their consent.

There are active brain and neurotechnology research initiatives in scores of countries all over the globe currently, and maybe one day we can expect to see thousands of micrometer-sized devices being seeded through someone’s brain that are capable of monitoring and influencing localized brain functions. MIT has already done this on a crude level.

Responsible innovation is rarely easy, but now is the time to come together around ensuring we develop neurotechnologies that are beneficial, and ethical.

It would be the ultimate user interface: a device the size of two stacked nickels that allows your thoughts to control computers. The only catch is it’ll have to be implanted in your brain. That’s what the Department of Defense’s cutting-edge research unit DARPA is working on, as part of President Obama’s BRAIN Initiative, a concerted push to advance neuroscience. It’s also what Qualcomm chief technology officer Matt Grob believes could come to market for consumers when 6G, or so-called sixth generation wireless technologies, arrives.

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