Sunday, October 2, 2011

The cyborg rat

Scientists in Israel have just installed a cybernetic brain into a rat.
Don't alert PETA just yet.  This was all done externally and the rat's cerebellum was not harmed, only disabled through the use of electrodes.  Plus, this advancement may one day make us capable of repairing damaged functions of the brain via electronics.  The "brain" is essentially a cybernetic microchip that can be placed into the cerebellum.  This implant receives stimuli, translates it, and then re-sends stimuli accordingly.  While there is still more lab work to be done, the rat responded to simple stimuli/response tests.  The temporarily disabled rat was able to compensate for the loss once the brain chip was added.

Brain-computer interfaces are advancing by the day, as are robot prosthetic limbs and the like.  We're getting closer to a time when those who have suffered from debilitating strokes or brain injury or even degeneration due to Alzheimer's will now have more options available to them via cybernetics.  Industry is not blind to this.  Intel has said that it wants to be able to place brain implants in their customer's heads by 2020.  Granted, there is a great deal more ground to cover before a brain-implant interface is sufficiently smooth but it's on its way.

As with anything else transhuman, there are always plenty of Kip Haggis types waiting in the wings to criticize and cry "dehumanization!"  Oh the mendacity.  They also appear quick to point to "SkyNet" scenarios.  In other words, cyborgs+AI+UAVs=we're all screwed.  I can't even begin to count the ways in which that logic is faulty.  First of all, SkyNet is pure fiction.  Even though the idea of a cyborg rat does harken me back to the Rudy Rucker's rodents on the Moon, I I just can't sound the alarm over these developments.  If anything, I'm as encouraged as I always am.  Take my brain, enhance it to the point of having massive memory storage and the ability to enact millions of calculations per second, upload it all into a super-durable body and I'm set.  It's not unnatural, you dopes.  It's using our natural intelligence to make ourselves better and to overcome our pitfalls.

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