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Government The Military United States Technology News Science

U.S. Military Spending Millions To Make Cyborgs A Reality (cnn.com) 102

mmell writes: The U.S. military is spending millions on an advanced implant that would allow a human brain to communicate directly with computers. If it succeeds, cyborgs will be a reality. The goal of the proposed implant is to "open the channel between the human brain and modern electronics" according to DARPA's program manager, Phillip Alvelda. In January, DARPA announced it plans to spend up to $62 million on the project, which is part of its Neural Engineering System Design program. The implant would be small -- no larger than one cubic centimeter, or roughly the size of two stacked nickels -- according to DARPA. The implantable device aims to convert neurons in the brain into electronic signals and provide unprecedented "data-transfer bandwidth between the human brain and the digital world," according to a DARPA statement announcing the new project. DARPA sees the implant as providing a foundation for new therapies that could help people with deficits in sight or hearing by "feeding digital auditory or visual information into the brain." A spokesman for DARPA told CNN that the program is not intended for military applications.
Ordinarily, such a headline might be considered sensationalist reporting and a batch of sci-fi -- except DARPA is involved. I can remember when internetworking computers was a radical concept until DARPA came up with some serious sci-fi style communications protocols to make it all work. With only $62 million budgeted (so far), we can only hope that it'll be a while before they succeed -- but then again, this is DARPA we're talking about.
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U.S. Military Spending Millions To Make Cyborgs A Reality

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  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Monday March 07, 2016 @08:52PM (#51656347) Journal

    "Alert: Pay us 5 grand in bitcoin, or we'll give you amnesia, like we did to Reagan and Rick Perry!"

    • Yeah, I doubt that they could do something like that. More likely they'd be limited to things like beaming images of goatse directly into your brain. It could probably also be used to induce seizures, but they could make a safeguard against that.

      • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

        I doubt that they could do something like that. More likely they'd ... beam images of goatse directly into your brain.

        hell, I'd rather take the amnesia

      • like beaming images of goatse directly into your brain. It could probably also be used to induce seizures

        Goatse-to-the-brain is HOW they would induce seizures...

    • I am a Nigerian prince and I need you to overthrow my enemies to release vast wealth which is my birthright...
  • Then you wouldn't need to send the soldier to the battlefield at all, just a robot with some sort of encrypted and authenticated wireless interface between the brain and the robot.
    • by Daniel Matthews ( 4112743 ) on Monday March 07, 2016 @09:20PM (#51656479)
      Ah right, like having a radio transmitter on a robot with a constantly on, two way, broadband data link is a good idea, if it is trying to hide and not get hit. If you radiate energy of any frequency you can be detected and if you can be detected you can be targeted.
      • So just bring a really long wire then, duuuh...
      • by aliquis ( 678370 )

        Ah right, like having a radio transmitter on a robot with a constantly on, two way, broadband data link is a good idea, if it is trying to hide and not get hit. If you radiate energy of any frequency you can be detected and if you can be detected you can be targeted.

        And that's why we need to put our focus on the undead!

      • If you radiate energy of any frequency you can be detected

        Like human soldiers do, you mean? Or does infrared not count?

    • If that's the plan, the government should really stop trying to weaken encryption. Because the fastest way to defeat the US's new unstoppable robot army is to hijack the signal and make them turn right back around and attack your own country.

    • A true cyborg doesn't physically separate the brain and the robot. Consider RoboCop or the 6-Million Dollar Man.

      Especially consider RoboCop. Officer Murphy had perfectly good body parts amputated just so they could more completely cyborg him. A battlefield would be an ever better place for that.

      Used to be if you suffered serious damage in battle, you could look forward to going home and dealing with years of PTSD. With cyborg technology, they could just slap on a few machine parts and send you back for more

  • Hackers everywhere are salivating at the thought.

  • $62 million man just does NOT sound as good as the $6 million man. Tim S.
    • $62 million man just does NOT sound as good as the $6 million man. Tim S.

      Inflation my man, inflation.

  • Say what? (Score:4, Funny)

    by RNLockwood ( 224353 ) on Monday March 07, 2016 @09:09PM (#51656437) Homepage

    "The implantable device aims to convert neurons in the brain into electronic signals ..."

    As an additional benefit a short time after implantation the subjects will qualify as news release editors or professional climate change deniers (but not for long).

  • doesn't anyone realize potential advantages?
  • We are the United States. You will be assimilated into our American culture. We have analyzed your defensive capabilities as being unable to withstand us. If you defend yourselves, you will be punished. Resistance is futile.

  • Final Interface (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Monday March 07, 2016 @09:17PM (#51656469) Homepage

    The real problem with the computer chip, human cell interface is that final connection. Getting a connection that will not burn out or contaminate cells or even the simple physics of different densities and how that will disrupt connections from changes in inertial loading. Those chips would need to have near identical densities to the brain tissue they connect to, any electrical exchange would have to be near identical to human electrical change (which tends to be more within the cell with chemical exchange outside of the cell) and chemical exchange would require refuelling the computer chips or attempting to draw that chemical fuel from the body.

    Sure computer biological connections can be more easily obtained but they are not sustainable or desirable and their intent only really functions around concepts of torture, forced destructive extraction of data or temporary enslavement (with biologic failure in any extended application).

    Reality is, for any longevity it would require the bioengineering of a living organisation planted within the brain that could act as the connection between the human mind and any digital interface. Something that could squirm into the brain, say between the two halves of the brain and wrap itself around the corpus collosum with it's tail attached to the skull providing the digital connection. About the only means be which to create a no destructive connection, apart from say remote quantum connections, in terms of measuring and changing. Far simpler to engineer the symbiote than to attempt a quantum connection of course if you don't care about damaging the individual and your purposes are destructively perverted as expected from the US military, than well, what else would you expect from the US military industrial complex.

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )

      the simple physics of different densities

      There are polymers that conduct these days as well as 3D printing of cells, even a nerve cell recently.

      A lot of what you've written does have a good point but is very well known even at an introductory level - eg. metal implants in bone grind the utter crap out of surrounding bone and the immune systems drills holes in the bone as well due to collatoral damage to cleaning up the little bits ground off.

      Far simpler to engineer the symbiote

      If you can go that far why no

      • 3D printing of cells, even a nerve cell recently
        You are mistaken. There is no 3D printing of cells.
        There is 3D printing with cells, as in: the "ink" is mainly composed of human cells.

        • by dbIII ( 701233 )
          Yes - impressive isn't it - escpecially since the cells can be grown outside of a human body and then "printed" into a structure that could be implanted. It has the potential to be used to make items for transplant that will not be rejected by the body so the recipient would not have to be on drugs that compromise their immune system for the rest of their lives.
    • by Fwipp ( 1473271 )

      Reality is, for any longevity it would require the bioengineering of a living organisation planted within the brain that could act as the connection between the human mind and any digital interface. Something that could squirm into the brain, say between the two halves of the brain and wrap itself around the corpus collosum with it's tail attached to the skull providing the digital connection.

      Somebody's been reading a little too much Animorphs.

    • by Salgak1 ( 20136 )
      A solution for electronics/neuron interface [iop.org] has been around for several years. I know one of the scientists involved [wakehealth.edu], and yes, the research was at least partially funded by DARPA [sciencedirect.com]. As I recall, the emphasis was on restoring function to combat-wounded soldiers with brain injury. . .
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Author fails to comprehend magnitude

  • DARPA specs (Score:5, Informative)

    by LeDopore ( 898286 ) on Monday March 07, 2016 @09:24PM (#51656495) Homepage Journal

    You can read about the specifics here: https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=op... [fbo.gov].

    The call is for a human-deployable system after 4 years. It should read from a million neurons and be able to write to 100,000 neurons, 1000 neurons in full duplex read-write, with 60 dB channel isolation, all in a tiny package that doesn't significantly overheat the brain tissue its up against.

    Who thinks that's possible?

    • I wonder what the budget is for making the human centipede real. If you're going to network brains, why not digestive tracts ?

    • It seems totally doable for a electrode array to do this if you can find a reason to convince the FDA of a need for higher density electrode arrays (the max is currently 256).

      Manufactures like Imec are confident they can use photographic techniques and flexible circuit board technology to create a multi-electrode arrays (MEA) that meet the density requirements set in the BAA. The tricky part here is to ensure the final system is biologically compatible.

      I was planning on applying to the grant using an o
    • Completely doable. They already accomplished this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]
  • by gavron ( 1300111 ) on Monday March 07, 2016 @09:28PM (#51656509)

    > I can remember when internetworking computers was a radical concept until DARPA came up with some serious sci-fi style communications protocols

    No, son, you don't. And no, they didn't.

    E
    P.S. To add finer detail, the IMPs used the 1822 protocol developed by Bolt, Beranek, and Newman (BBN) in 1969. You were not around to "remember when ... this was a radical concept". Four years later the protocol was improved to add sequence numbers, acks, send windows, and TCP was born. While ARPA (now DARPA) financed some of this work, it wasn't anything DARPA[sic] came up with nor was there any "serious sci-fi style" whatever to it. From the IMPs of 1969 to the NSF core routers (Cisco AGS+) of the 1980s to the networks we have today, The US DoD ARPA had a hand in funding it, but it didn't "come up" with any of it (that's not what they do) and none of it is sci-fi, and you don't remember any of that personally. Here's a shout out to the many people who were around that day.

  • I for one, welcome our new cyborg overlords
  • A few years ago this would have been a foolish idea, but now electrodes can be permanently attached to neurons with no apparent damage, so it becomes a lot more reasonable. And there's one style of them that can spread out and connect to a bunch of different neurons in the same area.

    So a lot of the enabling technologies have already been developed. I must admit that I don't expect this to work, but it's no longer a totally ridiculous idea.

  • Honey, I did not mean to have the affair. My chip was hacked, and I was forced to have the affair.
  • Ordinarily, such a headline might be considered sensationalist reporting and a batch of sci-fi -- except DARPA is involved.

    DARPA is involved in a lot of things that don't work out. If anything, DARPA involvement means it's far enough in the future most of us will already be dead even if they get somewhere.

  • They have spectacular successes and even bigger Failures

    The Hafnium bomb https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    Their Cybernetic Menagerie : Weaponized Rats, Bees, and a mechanical elephant http://www.motherjones.com/pol... [motherjones.com]

    One of my favorites, the Connection Machine architechture http://www.inc.com/magazine/19... [inc.com]

    • And what exactly was a "failure" with the Connection Machine?

      • Didn't read the article ?

        The company was non functional, and there wasn't a market for the machines

        From the article

        Thinking Machines sold seven CM-1s, but only because DARPA brokered and subsidized most of the deals. If the company was going to stay in business, it would need a machine that could pull its weight outside AI research. Unfortunately, according to Resnikov, the decision to tailor the CM-1 to the AI "nonmarket" cost Thinking Machines three years in the real-world marketplace.

        • What has that to do with your argument?
          Nothing ... the machines worked fine. The company was unsuccessful in the long run. That does not make the machine a failire or something wrong but eihter the company, or 'the times' or both.

          • Define Worked Fine ?
            They were not a great leap forward. They weren't even exceptional in their target niches. They were a bad and inappropriate use of funds. Currently they are most interesting as odd pieces of decor.

            • They weren't even exceptional in their target niches.
              Erm ... are you sure know what you are talking about?

              "Connection Machines2 had up to 64k processors.

              And yes they worked fine, no idea what kind of definition you want. The ones I worked on where marvelous.

              Currently they are most interesting as odd pieces of decor.
              Har har har. If they would not suck power as insanely as they do compared to our days hardware I gladly had one e.g. as bit coin miner ... yes, they usually not even had FPUs ... I know ... do

  • One device the size of two nickels? Shouldn't it be dozens/hundreds/thousands/zillions of very small IO... thingies?
  • Just a matter of degree...
  • Just thought I'd ask - being an old B5 fan and all . . .
  • But it will be weaponized eventually once we get most of the kinks worked out...
  • A cyborg is a cybernetic organism. This is just a way of communication. It has nothing to do with an actual cyborg. A man with a prosthetic leg is
    more of a cyborg than this.

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