Friday, September 18, 2015

Editing your memory

By Anders Sandberg from Oxford, UK (BCI) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

There is much talk about how, in the future, we risk the loss of jobs to new robot labour, being able to not only carry out the manual labour that they do today (assembling cars, packing boxes etc) but also taking on skilled and professional jobs like accountancy.

But I think that there is a much greater change coming.

We can now control robotic limbs with our mind.  We can use technology to reconstruct images from memories as you remember them.  And we are developing ways to forget memories.

I believe that, as these experiments progress, we will move to the development of a usable mind interface, where we can control computers using thought, but also where we can implant information into our brains, either by direct entry into our memory banks, or by placing information into non-biological memory that we learn to access.

Computers continue to be particularly bad at various tasks, and particularly while they can be programmed to carry out a single task well, the delivery of multiple different tasks - something that humans are good at - they struggle with.

I think that we will ultimately progress to being able to "access" memories to undertake particular jobs.  Would you like to know how to dance? Or to ride a motorbike? Instead of spending time and effort learning, just pay for the memories to be entered into you.

This of course brings risks - imagine having your mind overwritten, perhaps entirely replaced by someone elses mind.  That is why I think for a long time all we will be able to do is access information through a thought interface, rather than having information actually placed into our brains.  But eventually I think this will develop into brain addition, initially, for example, to establish ways of deleting traumatic memories.

Of course this is very controversial, but potentially this could be hugely beneficial for humanity.  Whilst manual and more jobs are handled by automated systems, this could allow great numbers of memory-enhanced humans to work on furthering science and our understanding of the universe.