Neuroprosthetics, immortality, & the Frankenstein scenario (was: Monkey brai

Russell Turpin
Tue, 11 Jun 2002 15:53:19 +0000

Russell Turpin:
>>What is the requirement for a skin portal?

Eugen Leitl:
>Power and I/O. Things become uglier if you go above
>a certain power density you can't dissipate in the body, then you need 
>cooling, too.

Think chips, not computers. There is a lot of research
right now in how to make these kinds of things so they
draw power from the body itself. I don't know how the
retina implants are powered, but they don't require
a scheral portal. Remember: the end result of this
prosthetic is to enervate neurons. That takes miniscule
amounts of power, maybe no more than switching a
transistor on a chip. Even the latest artificial heart,
which has to do orders of magnitude more work, gets
its power without a skin portal.

In normal use, there is no need for I/O through
the skin, but just from nerve to prosthetic to
nerve. Now 'tis true the prosthetic will need an I/O
interface for initial diagnostics and programming. One
possibility is a temporary skin portal, which is not
nearly so troublesome as a permanent one. I suspect,
though, that this will be done wirelessly, without
incision, and with the external unit supplying
whatever additional power the prosthetic requires.

>Meaningful I/O (>10^6 channels) to the CNS is a lot
>of hardware.

I don't think so. How many lines are in even a small
microprocessor these days? Don't think about getting
those signals out to some kind of device and then
plugging a cable into the nervous system. Instead,
think about getting nerves to attach themselves to
channels on a silicon pad. Think that is ridiculous?
It has already been done in the lab. Initially,
these prosthetics won't have 10^6 channels, but
10^2. And yeah, that's not enough to walk or type.
But when the alternative is complete paralysis of a
limb, even a few simple movements and sensations are
miraculous. Now yeah, that's far away from the end
result I described. But once these kind of
neuroprosthetics start being used, Moore's law
will kick in. Each new generation will double the
number of neural connections.

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