A Few Important Words on ‘the Posthuman Brain’



“The evolution of computers and embeddable techs will be sized on a cellular level and injected into the bloodstream to communicate with your brain.”

When a SXSW panel starts on those lines and there’s a real time projection of one of the presenter’s brain frequencies on screen, you know you’re in for a bit of a wild ride. The subject matter was a near future projection of where we’re going, and even as a savvy audience member with a fascination for technology, I was unprepared to where things are heading.

Let’s start by covering some of the things that exist today as a baseline:

1. People’s minds can be imaged to see thoughts and details as distinct as letters;

2. Transcranial stimulation via implants allow people with Parkinsons to have symptoms suppressed;

3. Motor control augments in the brain allow quadriplegics to manipulate robotic exoskeletons or control cursors;

4. Retinal implants are allowing the blind to see;

5. The UK just issued a passport for the first (officially/internationally) recognized cyborg.

A couple years ago, wearables such as Nike Fuelband didn’t exist within the common landscape, but now they’re enjoying wide adoption. With the increasing technology and multidisciplinary sciences joining along, we’re cresting into a brave new world of embeddable tech. A world by which you can contextually tag content for social media with the emotions you’re experiencing is only a handful of years out—the tech exists, but it’s a matter of pervasiveness.

You, like many, wonder what’s wrong with the way we are now. Technically: nothing. But our brains as slow to process disparate interfaces. As a species, our native brain patterns are still stuck with our biological evolution—on the plains of Africa so many tens of thousands of years ago. With the cultural additions of machine vision, the trends of Big Data and AI/ algorithms to help process it, we will actually start to transform as a species.

Our brains, if properly stimulated, can’t actually tell the difference between that which is real and that which is constructed. Real memories can actually hold less information and importance than artificial ones. Augmented, we will be able to realistically externalized memory, and therefore a great portion of the self. Our abilities to actualize in the world will be exponential. We will become transhuman.

Of course, there’s a major cultural and ethical impact to all this: the richest amongst us will have a competitive advantage to being (in essence) supercharged. The hope of the panel is that with the primary lizard brain instinct for self preservation and resource hoarding addressed, augmented humans will be able to actualize true empathy (especially since internalizing the fundamental “soul” of others will be within reach). Further, as enhanced humans, we’ll be self aware re: biases, core patterns, and signals within ourselves. We will also be able to “tune” ourselves to absorb the vast inputs in the collective consciousness.

There will be several generations of imbalance but at some point, the technology will level out. Disadvantaged people in the third world already utilize cheap technologies that five years ago the president of the United States didn’t even have access to.

Whether this evolution is right or wrong is almost immaterial, it’s happening. Our choice will be whether we participate in it.