Neuroscientist Researching Intelligence-Enhancing Microchips

Human brain scan in a neurology clinic Andrew Brookes / Cultura Creative
Andrew Brookes / Cultura Creative/AFP

Northwestern University neuroscientist and business professor Dr. Moran Cerf is studying ways in which brain implants could push humanity toward new intellectual frontiers.

Cerf believes that in as little as five years, people may be enhancing their minds via technology. “Make it so that it has an internet connection, and goes to Wikipedia, and when I think this particular thought, it gives me the answer,” he told Chicago’s CBS2.

“Everyone is spending a lot of time right now trying to find ways to get things into the brain without drilling a hole in your skull,” Cerf said. “Can you eat something that will actually get to your brain? Can you eat things in parts that will assemble inside your head?”

Despite his optimistic time frame for the advancement, Cerf is concerned that society may not be prepared for the ethical ramifications. What happens when people can pay to make themselves superior thinkers? “They can make money by just thinking about the right investments, and we cannot; so they’re going to get richer, they’re going to get healthier, they’re going to live longer,” he said.

“Are they going to say, ‘Look at this cute human, Stephen Hawking. He can do differential equations in his mind, just like a little baby with 160 IQ points. Isn’t it amazing? So cute. Now let’s put it back in a cage and give it bananas,’” Cerf said, explaining the dangers in yet another form of societal inequality.

“This is no longer a science problem. This is a social problem,” Cerf said. But he is far from the only person making these considerations — and developing the technology to do it. Facebook and Elon Musk are among the most notable forces working toward similar brain-computer interfaces.

How the United States — and the world at large — addresses the moral quandaries inextricably tangled with the benefits of the technology will define whether the next chapter of human evolution is full of hope, or the prologue to a more dystopian future.

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