Our Nervous Systems Via Nanotechnology Could Connect Every Neuron in Our Brains


Computers Linked to Nervous System by Mid-Century

Source: The Times of India

November 19, 2000

By mid-century computers will be linked directly into our nervous systems via nanotechnology, which is so small it could connect to every neuron in our brains. Paul Bray reports

It is 2020. You are lounging on a coral atoll, surrounded by a group of co-workers of god-like physique. Among them is your personal assistant, to whom you are dictating the itinerary of a forthcoming business trip. A badge twinkles in your lapel and a client drops in to discuss the software package you developed this morning. You click your fingers at a plastic panel in your lap and and show your colleague the document that appears there. You ask your PA to find and precis any similar documents he/she can find on the Internet. While waiting, you make a cup of tea your client is not thirsty but before it has brewed your PA drops the precis of 15 documents into your lap.

The only disappointment in this scenario is that, after 20 years of genetic engineering, we may still have to wait a minute for tea to brew. Ian Pearson, BTs official futurologist, is sorry about that, but tea isnt really his business. He can, however, explain how the rest of this fictional scenario could become fact within 20 years.

Perhaps we should explain that, while perfectly plausible, our scenario is not all it seems. To begin with, you are not on a coral atoll, but at a rented desk in a teleworking centre near your home.

Anti-noise technology which generates sound waves that cancel out any ambient noise means you cant hear the other teleworkers. You cant see them either, because you are wearing electronic contact lenses with a radio transceiver, miniature circuitry and micro-mirrors that focus a computer image directly onto your retina.

The coral atoll is merely a photo-realistic back-projection. Your co-workers are also computer images. You have never met them and you are all on short-term contracts, but it is comforting to have them around.

Actually, you could probably pass them in the street without recognising them, because their images called avatars may have been electronically reprocessed to remove a couple of decades, or a dozen kilos of cellulite. You are not even sure what sex they are, since nobody has to be themselves any more.

Computers will have full natural language recognition by 2020, which means that when you mutter, Im going to Copenhagen for that conference on Friday, the PA will double-check your diary before booking flights and hotels on the Internet.

The twinkling badge in your lapel will be a miniature computer. Most computing tasks, such as processing and storing data, will be done on central networked computers. So your badge will be little more than a secure radio transceiver, which will bounce signals from the network onto your display, and relay back the responses from your microphone, mouse, keyboard, electronic pen, or whatever form of interface you prefer.

When you are out and about, the badge will become a personality badge. At conferences, it will network with the badges of other delegates to find people with similar interests and arrange meetings with them.

Other badge functions could include delivering computer-based presentations, playing MP3-style music files, pinpointing your current location via satellite link, and voice communications.

Mobile phones will continue to get smaller and lighter, with voice-controlled dialling because they will be too small for keypads. They will be amalgamated with handheld computers, with functions such as videoconferencing and graphical web browsing, and will give 20 hours talk time on a single battery charge, though this will probably be through lower-power components, not better batteries.

The distinction between mobile and fixed phones will disappear. We shall simply have one handset and one number, which will use the cheapest and most appropriate technology wherever we are. And our homes and offices will be served by wireless networks linked to fibreoptic cables, with capacities of 100 megabits per second enough to carry 50 TV channels at once.

Back at the atoll, you could be using a big wrap-around screen to display your co-workers avatars and a sheet of electronic paper in your lap for reading documents and annotating them with an electronic pen.

Gazing deeper into his crystal ball, Pearson foresees that by mid-century computers will be linked directly into our nervous systems via nanotechnology, which is so small it could connect to every neuron in our brains. By about 2040 there will be a backup of our brains in a computer somewhere so when you die it wont be a major career problem.

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