Are You Ready For Brain 2.0?

Human brain chips are already at work helping quadriplegics stay self-sufficient, and they may soon be helping Lou Gehrig's disease patients, too. Will the term "Linuxhead" soon have a whole new meaning?

At a conference in July, Bill Gates was asked if he thought computers would ever be implanted in the human brain. "We will have those capabilities," he replied, noting that cochlear implants already exist and vision implants are being developed.

But human brain chips are already here. A company called Cyberkinetics has implanted its BrainGate chip into two quadriplegics who can now control a computer and television with their thoughts. The device is implanted in the motor cortex, with each of its 100 electrodes tapping into a neuron. Another company, Neural Signals, has built a system that uses either conductive skull screws or electrode tips implanted five millimeters under the surface of the brain. These are attached to amplifiers and FM transmitters on the skull. Patients with Lou Gehrig's disease are testing the use of this technology to operate computers.

In the future, people may turn to implants to augment normal functions. The question is, will your head be running Windows?

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