NEURAL DUST AND “ELECTROCEUTICALS”
Last week I blogged about the coming "neural dust" craze, and a regular reader here, Ms. P, read the article and shared this article, and some of her own "high octane speculations" (which we'll get back to in a moment, because I happen to agree with her):
There's so much here that I hardly know where to begin, but let's begin with what has now become the standard tactic in pushing all this "human-machine" merger, it's "health benefits". After all, who would object to better health and longer life?
University of California, Berkeley engineers have built the first dust-sized, wireless sensors that can be implanted in the body, bringing closer the day when a Fitbit-like device could monitor internal nerves, muscles or organs in real time.
Because these batteryless sensors could also be used to stimulate nerves and muscles, the technology also opens the door to “electroceuticals” to treat disorders such as epilepsy or to stimulate the immune system or tamp down inflammation.
But wait, there's more benefits in store:
“The original goal of the neural dust project was to imagine the next generation of brain-machine interfaces, and to make it a viable clinical technology,” said neuroscience graduate student Ryan Neely. “If a paraplegic wants to control a computer or a robotic arm, you would just implant this electrode in the brain and it would last essentially a lifetime.”
In a paper published online in 2013, the researchers estimated that they could shrink the sensors down to a cube 50 microns on a side – about 2 thousandths of an inch, or half the width of a human hair. At that size, the motes could nestle up to just a few nerve axons and continually record their electrical activity.
“The beauty is that now, the sensors are small enough to have a good application in the peripheral nervous system, for bladder control or appetite suppression, for example,” Carmena said. “The technology is not really there yet to get to the 50-micron target size, which we would need for the brain and central nervous system. Once it’s clinically proven, however, neural dust will just replace wire electrodes. This time, once you close up the brain, you’re done.”
“The vision is to implant these neural dust motes anywhere in the body, and have a patch over the implanted site send ultrasonic waves to wake up and receive necessary information from the motes for the desired therapy you want,” said Dongjin Seo, a graduate student in electrical engineering and computer sciences. “Eventually you would use multiple implants and one patch that would ping each implant individually, or all simultaneously.”
In her email to me, Ms. P. also pointed out that such "electroceuticals" hold as much promise for mischief and just plain evil, as they do for good. Among her speculations, she mentioned the ability to produce abortions in pregnant women (who may not want an abortion), or a "kill switch" that would literally turn someone "off' if they became an inconvenience - think of the "electroceutical Arkancide" here - or, for that matter, such an "electroceutical" implanted at birth via a "vaccine", with a "pre-alotted life-span timer" counting down an individual's life. Of course, rest assured, Congress will exempt themselves and the power elites from what they mandate for everyone else.
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