Neurotechnology seeks to understand the functioning of the human nervous system and how it can be used to develop technology-based solutions for neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders, as well as for improving human abilities and experiences. It encompasses a wide range of applications, including the development of cure for neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders, the ability to control technology with the brain, to enhance human memory, creativity, and self-awareness, and to experience virtual reality and more. The field combines the principles of neuroscience, engineering, and computer science, with the aim of creating new tools and techniques for studying the brain, as well as for improving the quality of life of individuals affected by neurological and neuropsychiatric conditions.
Why neurotech matters (Inspired by Juan Benet amazing talk).
In an era where human augmentation and the merging of biology with technology are not just science fiction but impending realities, NeuroTech emerges as a field of critical importance. This technology goes beyond mere gadgetry; it represents a fundamental shift in how we interact with, understand, and improve ourselves. Neurotechnology promises to unlock the deepest mysteries of the human brain and enable previously unimaginable capabilities. By interfacing with the nervous system, we can both repair neurological functions and enhance innate biological capacities. The possibilities stretch from overcoming paralysis to augmenting intelligence, from curing blindness to exploring new sensory domains. This vast frontier requires us to reimagine the boundaries of human potential.
Understanding the brain Advances in neuroimaging, sensing, and data analysis have given us unprecedented views into the workings of the brain. New high-resolution scanning techniques reveal increasingly fine-grained neural anatomy and activity. Implanted sensors and advanced signal processing let us decode neurons’ complex electrical chatter. Using powerful machine learning methods, we can now translate raw neurological data into insights about cognition and behavior. We stand at the threshold of creating detailed maps of the brain, elucidating how its physiology gives rise to thought and consciousness. This foundational knowledge will drive rapid progress in both therapy and enhancement.
Repairing Ourselves: Neural interfaces and technologies have the potential to repair damaged neurological functions, offering hope for conditions that are currently considered intractable. For conditions from Alzheimer’s to paralysis, we now have paths to develop targeted interventions, made possible by a deeper understanding of neural substrates. Gene therapies may arrest or even reverse neurodegeneration by altering disease-related pathways. Stem cell grafts and brain-machine interfaces can forge new connections across damaged circuitry, restoring motor control and cognitive capacity. As we refine our ability to monitor and stimulate the nervous system, we gain precision tools to recalibrate misfiring networks, overcoming disorders of perception, emotion, and more. Where pharmaceuticals have fallen short, the jeweler’s eye of bioelectronic medicine promises restorative solutions.
Augmenting Ourselves: Beyond therapy lies the possibility of enhancement, transcending our biological limits through applied neurotechnology. Nanoimplants and neural dust could provide direct, high-bandwidth brain-computer integration, enabling augmented reality and AI symbiosis. Such seamless interfaces would give rise to radically amplified cognition, memory, and learning. Visual and auditory technologies can unveil new sensory domains, while targeted stimulation grants improved motor control and strength. Ultimately, we may gain the ability to self-regulate mood and motivation at will. The future of neurotech is one of boundless human potential.
Digitizing Ourselves: In digitizing and analyzing patterns of neural activity, we can capture and preserve the essence of cognition itself. Detailed brain emulation could lead to replicable models of individual minds, with profound implications. We may come to know ourselves at the deepest level by empirically deriving the links from neurons to intelligence and consciousness. Whole brain simulations will enable societal and economic forecasting, while digital embodiments could achieve a form of immortality. Neurotechnology promises understanding of that most profound frontier - our own minds.
Expanding our horizons and surviving existential risks: NeuroTech may play a role in safeguarding humanity against existential risks (X-risks), from AI misalignment to biological pandemics, by enhancing our intelligence and decision-making capabilities. Brain-computer integration can enable rapid adaptation to changing conditions, allowing us to meet emerging challenges. Such synthetic intellect may also seed the growth of beneficial intelligence, aligned with human values. As we contemplate travel to harsh environments on or even beyond Earth, neurotech can push the limits of our endurance. By revealing the brain’s code, we gain insight into our past evolution while guiding future advancement. Neurotechnology harbors immense possibility, spurring imagination beyond the bounds of biology. With vision and rigor, we will chart a path to extraordinary horizons.
Health and Restoration
- Mitigating Diseases: Precision medicine and gene therapies could arrest neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS, reversing memory loss and motor dysfunction by targeting misfolded proteins and defective genes.
- Curing Diseases: Intracranial stimulation, neural grafting, and next-gen pharmaceuticals could cure intractable neurological disorders like epilepsy, depression, and OCD by recalibrating neural circuit misfiring.
- Better Self-Regulation: Real-time neurofeedback and non-invasive modulation could enable unprecedented emotional self-regulation, alleviating anxiety, addiction, PTSD, and other conditions.
- Repairing Connections: High-resolution BCIs and nerve bridges could enable those with spinal cord injuries to walk, move, and feel again by bypassing injury sites with artificial connections.
- Restoring Senses: Multielectrode implants, optogenetics, and nanotech could restore vision, hearing, and more, transforming blindness and deafness by interfacing electronics with the nervous system.
Enhancement of Abilities
- Enhancing Cognition: Nootropics, neurostimulation, and neural implants could radically boost working memory, attention, creativity, and general intelligence.
- Enhancing Senses: Neurotech could create infrared/UV visual perception, ultrasonic hearing, magnetic field sensors, and more by expanding sensory capabilities.
- Enhancing Dexterity: Exoskeletons, prosthetics, and motor neuroimplants could grant superhuman strength, speed, and motor control for athletics or remote operation.
- Enhancing Focus: Real-time neurofeedback could optimize mental states for intense concentration, maintaining flow states for long durations.
- Accelerated Learning: Memory augmentation tech could enable the near-instant uptake of new skills and knowledge, made possible by optimized encoding neural circuits.
- Brain-Computer Integration: High bandwidth BCIs could enable seamless integration of biological and artificial intelligence, transforming interactions.
- Brain-to-Brain Communication: Future specialized implants could enable direct thought/emotion sharing between minds by decoding neural signals and stimulating partners’ brains.
- Neural augmentation of AI: Bidirectional brain-computer integration could combine human creativity/intuition with AI’s computational power for human-aligned superintelligence.
- Mapping Connectomes: Fully mapped human connectomes will provide comprehensive atlases of neural computation, unlocking the basis of cognition.
- Simulating Minds: High-fidelity brain emulation could allow cheap, fast computational simulation of the mind, enabling a new science of consciousness.
- Digital Immortality: Lifelong brain data collection could enable a sufficiently detailed emulation to replicate an individual’s personality, memories, and inner self.
- Anticipating Societal Futures: Large-scale simulations of brain emulations could model the emergent dynamics of future societies before they occur.
Expanding Our Horizons
- Adapting to Environmental Change: Neuroplasticity enhancement and brain-computer integration can facilitate rapid adaptation to climate change and its impacts.
- Co-evolving with AI: Merging human and artificial intelligence will allow us to create superintelligent and human-aligned machines to handle existential threats.
- Interstellar Travel: Future minds interfaced with computers could perhaps survive the journey to and colonization of distant planets by adapting to extreme conditions.
- Transcending Biology: In the long-term, we may migrate consciousness to more durable and capable substrates while preserving the human spirit.
Goals of Neurotech (collected by Milan Cvitkovic)
- Cure Alzheimer’s
- Cure ALS, MD, MS, MG
- Cure epilepsy
- Cure migraine
- Cure Parkinson’s and tremor
- Cure deafness and blindness
- Cure paralysis
- Cure chronic pain
- Cure depression
- Cure anxiety disorders
- Cure dissociative disorders
- Cure bipolar disorder
- Cure PTSD
- Cure communication disorders
- Cure addiction and substance-abuse disorders
- Cure schizophrenia
- Cure visual and auditory hallucination
- Cure amnesia and dementia
- Cure insomnia, narcolepsy, night terrors, and other sleep disorders
- Cure eating disorders
- Cure OCD
- Cure personality disorders
- Cure jet lag
- Early diagnosis and monitoring of all the above
Being your best self
- Dialable moods, à la the Penfield Mood Organ
- Identify, break out of, and deprogram negative thought loops or “attractor states”
- E.g. break the self-fulfilling depression symptom of not wanting to seek treatment for depression
- Perfect therapy: identify the precise root psychological causes of whatever is ailing you
- And as a corollary, know exactly how much you are making progress
- Selective amnesia/salience of memories
- Forget your favorite book and read it again for the first time
- Never forget names
- Customizable personality traits
- Empathy, introversion, extraversion, big 5, etc.
- Might have to be combined with augmented memory to avoid getting taken advantage of
- Could be sharable: spend a day with the personality of someone you admire
- Install and uninstall motivations, habits, or aversions
- Like hypnosis but 1000x more effective
- Flow on-demand
- Set focus on specific tasks for specific amounts of time
- Remove your discount rate
- Right before making a decision, immediately feel the pleasure or pain you’ll eventually feel upon making a good or bad decision.
- Augmented self-awareness
- Pattern matching: “The last time your brain activity looked like this, here’s what you wrote about it/here’s what was going on.”
- Fully honest introspection
- E.g. a full annoyance audit for your daily life
- Arbitrary control of time perception
- “Fast-forward” through boring tasks
- Moments of eternity have interesting implications for utilitarianism…
- Any good thing you can do with DBS
- Designer synesthesia
- Multiplex arbitrary combinations of sensory or cognitive processes
- Controlled activation of specific subsets of psychedelic/psychoactive experience
- Perfect or anticipatory neurofeedback
- E.g. A mirror that reflected what you were going to do before you did it
- Lucid-dreaming on-demand
- Give the non-verbal parts of your mind the ability to communicate
- Give yourself new senses, as arbitrary as sensing technology allows
- E.g. give yourself dog-level smell abilities
- For ML practitioners: perception and control in high-dimensional vector spaces
- Perfect memory replay
- Sharable feelings or memories that you could give to friends
- Record your dreams
- Experience being someone with opposing political or ethical views
- Matrix-level VR
- Perhaps via the cranial and peripheral nerves
- A great option for virtual training, e.g. surgery
- Uploading consciousness to new hardware
- BCI (brain-computer interface)
- Control an exoskeleton
- Control a completely different body
- Control a computer interface
- Connect to external databases and datastreams
- A key design choice will be how to tell the user when a thought is from the computer vs. from the brain
- “I know kung fu” and other accelerated learning
- Or perhaps learn while asleep
- Safe control over energy level
- Warnings when mood or mind starts to shift out-of-bounds
- I.e. summoning conscious control whenever it fades away
- Force mood or mind out-of-bounds
- Enhance creativity
- Break Einstellung effect
- Sleep on command, for exact durations of time
- Perfect sleep quality
- Jhana on tap
- Perfect talent/skill assessment and progress tracking
- Animal communication
- Underrated. Could tell us a lot about animal suffering. Especially for animals that don’t express their feelings as much as humans.
- Is someone doing a neurotech-for-dogs play?
- Splitting consciousness
- Temporary callosotomy: have your left and right hands do two fully independent tasks simultaneously
- Firewall your judgment: fully believe one side of a debate is correct and write an argument for that position, and then fully switch beliefs to the opposing side and repeat
- Make better probabilistic estimates via single-person wisdom of the crowd
- Perfect lie detection
- Know when you’re lying to yourself
- Can (voluntarily!) certify to others that you’re telling the truth
- Brain merging
- Directly share experience with others
- Functional localization experiments
- Generalized Wada test
- The Phineas Gage experience would be a fun exhibit at a science museum
- Make p-zombies
- Manipulate the circuitry involved in sleepwalking and memory formation to let people act “normally” but without conscious experience
- Try whatever the latest AI alignment methods are in vivo
- E.g. OpenAI Microscope on organoids, C. elegans, or your own brain
- Substrate dependence
- Gradually replace parts of brain with a model
- Anesthetize small region of cortex or cerebellum, surround with microelectrode array, try to mimic I/O behavior to the point where the person can’t tell the difference. Expand the anesthetized area and repeat.
- Same experiment but where you spread out the processor through space and time, à la Permutation City
- Gradually replace parts of brain with a model
- Kernel - promising full-stack neurotech company, building non-invasive BCIs
- Forest Neuro is a seed project that aims to develop the first implanted whole-brain neural interface.
- Neurotechnology Numbers Worth Knowing by Milan Cvitkovic
- Cause Area: Differential Neurotechnology Development
- Development Timelines of Neurotechnologies and Related Technologies by Milan Cvitkovic