Feeds

DARPA looking for mind-controlrepair brainplug tech

'Bio-computationally accurate' simian-simulant sought

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Famed military maverick madscience outfit DARPA has launched a new bid to keep America's tech edge sufficiently sanguinary. This time the killer boffins want nothing less than an accurate computer simulation of a living humanoid brain - which they may use for purposes benign or sinister.

The new push is called Reorganization and Plasticity to Accelerate Injury Recovery (REPAIR), and DARPA says it's all about "understanding how neural-based sensory stimulation could be applied to accelerate recovery from brain injury".

There's more detail in this Word document. What DARPA want is this:

Creation of an in silico [in a computer, that is, not a bubbling jar with an actual brain in it] bio-computationally accurate model based on collection of multi-region, multi-scale neural activity in a non-human primate performing a complex dexterous task... constructed in such a manner as to allow for analysis of performance metrics, such as, time to target or targets, assessment of accuracy, control of simultaneous degrees of freedom, and learning time for task acquisition...

It is expected that the bio computational model employ appropriately sophisticated mathematical analysis to capture the complexity of parallel processing, inter-neural activity, and plastic adaptation within the brain.

Building this bio-computationally accurate brain is expected to involve contruction of "an experimental system to collect neural activity in a non-human primate". This monkey- or gorilla-scanning brainscope hat is supposed to use "multiple methodologies", so perhaps there is some scope here for brains in bubbling jars after all.

After the experimental brain probe has mapped the monkey brain and duplicated it in silicon (essentially creating a computer that thinks it's a living monkey - !), DARPAs want to move on. At that point, things start to get interesting:

Stimulation of non-human primates in order to evoke a biomimetic response

Investigators should be able to demonstrate the ability to stimulate relevant regions of the brain in such a manner that will evoke a response in the primate similar to that evoked through natural interaction with their surrounding environment... Ideally, investigators will be able to demonstrate ability of a non-human-primate to complete the task outlined in technical area one without the use of traditional sensory inputs.

In other words, DARPA would like to develop a way of plugging into the channels between the brain and the senses - potentially dropping a living mind into an artificial simulated world, where it can carry out actions and tasks. The Pentagon scientists offer another hint that this isn't just about healing brain injuries:

Major advances in neuroscience over the past decade have led to a number of theories and applications for the control of systems, biological or mechanical, through neural signals. While many of these applications access anatomically relevant regions for appropriate signals, few of them address the brain as a distributed computational network made up of systems that act in parallel.

It would seem, then, that what DARPA want is to find out ways of manipulating the brain as though it were a computer. You could, of course, use such knowledge benevolently, to repair injuries or illnesses.

But you could also use it for other things, such as placing the consciousness hosted by the said brain into simulations - perhaps entire simulated worlds and situations - which it would believe were real. You could use such technology as a direct brain-to-machinery interface, allowing mind control of computers, weapons, vehicles or whatever. You might even, if you could really master the brain in computing terms, learn to reprogram it.

All this is not even to mention that in creating the computer model of a primate brain, you would seem likely to create something quite close to a genuine machine intelligence - albeit one probably focused primarily on banana-related tasks. This would of course have profound implications in the field of futuristic butlers, both the robotic and the brainchipped-monkey types.

In this case - and generally of DARPA, really - one can't really say that necessity is the mother of invention. It's more a matter of wackiness and capability being the surrogate artificial lab womb growth tank -assisted parents of the spooky designer mutant superchildren of possibility. ®

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Designing and building an open ITOA architecture
Learn about a new IT data taxonomy defined by the four data sources of IT visibility: wire, machine, agent, and synthetic data sets.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?