National & International

‘Neural revolution’: Royal Society calls for inquiry into new wave of brain implants

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Scientists think devices could allow people to communicate telepathically or the paralysed to walk in the next decade.

Leading scientists say society must prepare for a technological revolution in which brain implants allow people to communicate by telepathy, download new skills, and brag about their holidays in “neural postcards”.

The Royal Society has called for a “national investigation” into the technology because while its far-fetched applications remain fiction, for now, research into brain implants and other neutral devices is advancing so fast.

Tim Constandinou, director of the next generation neural interfaces lab at Imperial College London, and co-chair of a new Royal Society report called iHuman said: “In 10 years’ time this is probably going to touch millions of people”.

The report foresees a “neutral revolution” driven by electronic implants that communicate directly with the brain and other parts of the nervous system. The scientists anticipate that by 2040, the scientists anticipate that implants will help the paralysed to walk, with other devices alleviating the symptoms of neurodegenerative.

People would become telepathic to some degree, able to converse not only without speaking but without words, through access to each other’s thoughts at a conceptual level. But with such new powers come new risks, the report adds. Expensive brain boosting devices may become luxury items in richer nations, leaving poorer countries behind. And with devices plugged directly to the brain people’s most intimate data could be used against them.

“As our experience with social media has shown, we do need to think ahead about who will control this data and what it might be used for to guard against possible harmful uses,” said Sarah Chan, a co-author on the report at Edinburgh University.

But Constandinou warned against overregulation that could cripple new technologies before they leave the lab. “This technology could massively improve the quality of life for millions of people.

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