The DARPA Brain Initiative is Developing These 5 Programs to Control the Mind
By: Gaia Staff | August 25th , 2017
It’s becoming increasingly inevitable – the singularity, our posthuman, cyborg destiny. And the next jump will be an interface in the form of a 4-mm. thick chip implanted in your brain, commanding neural networks on how the body should feel, react and heal, both voluntarily and involuntarily. If this sounds reminiscent of any number of sci-fi films, you can take ease (read: unease) in knowing that DARPA, the military’s experimental, tech-research branch, is spearheading a program under Obama’s 2014 Brain Initiative to develop this technology.
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.
Aside from an array of unforeseen horrors that could potentially result from artificially rewiring one’s brain, the possibility of the military having ulterior motives is unsettling. With DARPA, it’s possible that the most 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 programs 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 or the dystopian horrors the military could be capable of producing.
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 like Elon Musk’s Neuralink, or Facebook’s Building 8, which happens to be headed by a former DARPA developer.
DARPA Dystopian Nightmare: It seems this neural implant could have the potential to hack into and access data in other people’s devices. Or a reverse-engineered system where a device can influence and control the user with the implant. Cyborg soldiers could be controlled like a video game with their perceptions, beliefs and vision easily manipulated. Imagine if the enemy could be made to appear less human and more monstrous – moral and ethical inhibitions would be thrown out the window.
Brain Initiative 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.”
DARPA Dystopian Nightmare: False memories could be ingrained in the minds of prisoners during interrogation in order to further an agenda or rewire a subject’s identity, morals, and goals. What better way than to brainwash someone and redirect their worldview than by manipulating their memories. There is also the possibility of resurfacing suppressed subconscious memories. Some things are better left forgotten.
Brain Initiative 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.
DARPA Dystopian Nightmare: These brain chemicals are crucial regulators of many functions in the body that we regularly rely on like mood, sleep, behavior and reward systems. The production of these chemicals could be remotely controlled by someone with malicious intent, under the pretense of increased intelligence, and could be subversively used to overstimulate, causing a range of psychotic effects.
Brain Initiative 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.
DARPA Dystopian Nightmare: Prosthetic limbs become superior to our natural appendages and consumers get them through elective surgeries. Those limbs can now be remotely controlled or hacked, where pain can then be inflicted upon those with prosthetics. The military can also use this to develop indelible mech-warriors and exoskeletons that are sold to private firms and police forces, creating real-life versions of RoboCop and IronMan, further militarizing our police forces.
Brain Initiative 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?
DARPA Dystopian Nightmare: Allowing a computer the ability to trigger functions of your nervous system… need we say more?
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, but it’s concerning that DARPA is receiving the most funding for their development. DARPA is run by the Department of Defense and is a major perpetuator of war and destruction. DARPA’s main goal is to create advanced weapons and defense systems, so why should we believe that they are developing this technology for humanitarian reasons?