Inside DARPA’s Brain Initiative; 5 Programs Expose Military’s Transhumanist Agenda
It’s becoming increasingly inevitable – the singularity, our post-human, cyborg destiny. And the next jump may be a neural interface interacting with brain networks to manipulate how the body feels, react and even heals, both voluntarily and involuntarily. If this sounds reminiscent of any number of sci-fi films, that’s because it is, and it’s being spearheaded by DARPA, the military’s experimental, tech-research branch.
The DARPA Brain Initiative is ostensibly benevolent and meant to have wide-reaching applications in the medical world, helping civilians and veterans recover from traumatic mental health issues and physical injuries. These neural interfaces could allow prosthetics to have as much feeling as an actual limb, or tell your body when to release antibodies to fight infection faster than it normally would.
Though with DARPA, it’s also possible that the more enticing goal would be to create the ultimate warrior, an advanced superhuman cyborg, both physically and mentally superior to the unadulterated human. And some of these initiatives seem to hint at just that. The following five programs will give you an idea of what DARPA aims to achieve and the potential for a positive application. Could these transhumanist advancements unlock our superhuman potential?
NESD Brain Initiative – Neural Engineering System Design
The goal of the DARPA Brain Initiative NESD program is to create a neural link that can communicate with over a million neurons in the brain. This device would be able to transfer “advanced signal resolution and data-transfer bandwidth between the brain and electronics.” Essentially it converts your brainwaves and electrical synaptic firings into binary code that can be read by a computer, or more simply, near-telepathic control of an electronic device. Obviously, this brain-machine interface is a conception that the tech world has been dreaming about and is developing through different channels, such as Elon Musk’s Neuralink, or Facebook’s Building 8, which happens to be headed by a former DARPA developer.
Potentially Benevolent Outcome: Our lives are made easier and we become artificially telepathic. Prosthetics will eventually become as easily controlled and functional as an organic limb.
RAM Brain Initiative – Restoring Active Memory
The scientists at DARPA Brain Initiative clearly had fun with these acronyms. The RAM project aims to repair the neural networks that become damaged by traumatic head injuries. This issue undoubtedly affects a large portion of veterans, but is also widely applicable in the civilian realm. The implanted interface, referred to as a neuroprosthetic, would potentially improve memory and allow subjects to recall things that occurred prior to their impairment. The project aims to use “computational models to describe how neurons code declarative memories,” by targeting, “well-defined parcels of knowledge that can be consciously recalled and described in words such as events, times and places.”
Potentially Benevolent Outcome: Restoring memory to those who have suffered injuries and diseases like Alzheimer’s, and improving the memory of healthy individuals. If we are to make any sort of jump in our overall technological advancement, improving the recall and function of our memory would help exponentially.
TNT Brain Initiative – Targeted Neuroplasticity Training
Our brains, the amazing marvel of nature that they are, have the ability to rewire and rework their structure in order to adapt to changes in our bodies – this is called neuroplasticity. When we learn, neuronal connections change to improve brain function. The DARPA Brain Initiative TNT program strives to improve on this process, creating more explosive learning, if you will, in our synaptic firings. The interface would ramp up the release of brain chemicals like acetylcholine, norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine, expediting the process of neuroplasticity and allowing for accelerated learning. These chemicals are also released by amphetamines, which is what makes nootropic drugs like adderall a choice study supplement.
Potentially Benevolent Outcome: DARPA hopes this will decrease the amount of time and money spent on training programs and generally make people more intelligent.
HAPTIX Brain Initiative – Hand Proprioception and Touch Interfaces
Expanding on the development of neural interfaces for prosthetics, the goal of HAPTIX is to create the sense of feeling in artificial limbs. Aside from providing relief from phantom limb pain, experienced by 80 percent of amputees, numb prosthetics are just harder to use. Imagine if you one could not only control an artificial limb with your mind, but also experience sensation through it. This is one of the greatest necessities if we want to realize our cyborg fate.
Potentially Benevolent Outcome: Pain relief for amputees, better-functioning prosthetics and the positive ascent toward cyborg-dom.
ElectRx Brain Initiative – Electrical Prescriptions
The DARPA Brain Initiative’s Electrical Prescriptions would essentially commandeer the control center in your brain that responds to injury and illness. This system is normally dictated by our peripheral nervous system in the brain and spinal cord where signs of an infection trigger the appropriate systems that lead to healing and recovery. ElectRx seeks to repair these systems, if damaged, and trigger faster responses in healthy systems, all while providing precise, real-time monitoring of your internal functions. Who needs a doctor or pharmacist when you have an artificial nervous system that knows just what the body needs?
Brain Initiative Benevolent Outcome: The epitome of biohacking and preventative medicine. Those with damaged nervous, metabolic and autoimmune systems would benefit.
Many of the prospects proposed by the Brain Initiative sound exciting, cutting-edge and even downright miraculous. Of course DARPA is run by the Department of Defense and is a major perpetuator of war and destruction, so there’s always an ulterior motive to keep in mind. But there’s also the potential that the benefits outweigh these technologies’ nefarious uses and solve some of our biggest physical and neurological problems, while unlocking our superhuman potential.
Researchers Have Created a Device That Can Hear Your Inner Voice
MIT researchers have created a wearable device that can read your internal dialogue with 92 percent accuracy. The device allows users to ask questions and remotely control other devices without saying a word.
The device, called AlterEgo, resembles a jawbone hooking around the ear and attaching to the user’s face between the lip and chin. Using a bone conduction system, it can hear and respond to the wearer’s internal voice through electrodes attached to the skin.
Developed by a team at MIT’s Media Lab, the intention of the device is to seamlessly fuse humans and machines, soon allowing access one’s smartphone without having to physically manipulate it. Team leader, Arnav Kapur, described it as an attempt to develop a computing platform as “an internal extension of our own cognition,” and “intelligence augmentation.”
The device seems to be the first major step toward a transhumanist cognitive enhancement as technology increasingly becomes an extension of our bodies.
When we verbalize internally, we trigger subtle neuromuscular signals. AlterEgo can read these signals through electrodes placed on the skin. The device then responds to the wearer through a bone conduction speaker, eliminating the need for earbuds or headphones.
Bone conduction headphones are an existing technology that have gained popularity over the past few years, though the phenomenon is believed to have been discovered as far back as the 1500s.
In a video demonstrating AlterEgo’s capabilities, its designers claim that their goal is to combine humans and computers so that computing, the internet, and AI would weave into one’s personality to create a “second self.”