Cyborgs: A New Reality?

CNN recently reported that the U.S. military is creating an implant that “would allow a human brain to communicate directly with computers.”

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is the Pentagon’s research arm, aims to help people with auditory and visual disabilities, such as those injured in combat. The project is planned to “open the channel between the human brain and modern electronics,” according to Phillip Alvelda, DARPA’s program manager.

This implant, coupled with a battery-powered exoskeleton, known as the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit that the U.S. military is currently working on, would make cyborgs a reality. Many have called it a real-life Iron Man.

If the program succeeds, supporters say it could be a revolutionary leap in technology, specifically robotics and military. However, several skeptics have spoken out about the project.

“My guess is that it’s a waste of taxpayer dollars,” Steven Pinker, a cognitive scientist and professor of psychology at Harvard, said. Pinker noted that the human brain’s way of processing complex information is relatively unknown and overall the project is a “bunch of hype with no results.”

CNN reported that success with the implant, which is being overseen by the U.S. Special Operations Command, would “allow the military member operating the suit to more effectively control the armored exoskeleton while deployed in combat.”

Conor Walsh, a professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering at Harvard University, is hopeful with the project and its possible effects. “Walsh sees the potential for wearable robotic devices or exoskeletons in everything from helping a medical patient recover from a stroke to enhancing soldiers’ capabilities in combat” (CNN).

Millions are currently being spent on the project, but the outcomes are unknown, and according to DARPA, before cyborgs become a reality, “breakthroughs in neuroscience, synthetic biology, low-power electronics, photonics and medical-device manufacturing” are required (CNN).

Carina Wang, Staff Writer

Sophomore Carina Wang is a staff writer for the 2015-2016 Colonel. She is on the FIRST Robotics team.

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