Entirely new companies may emerge, offering futuristic services such as cosmetic brain surgery or “total recall” or “the eternal sunshine of a spotless mind.
It turns out that President Barack Obama’s head-scratching mention of a project to map the human brain in his most recent State of the Union speech was more than just a casual comment. John Markoff of the New York Times reported this week that the White House will soon unveil a massive, multi-billion-dollar research project to map the entire human brain that will likely involve scores of scientists, foundations and government agencies. When completed, a detailed map of how the human brain works would be a staggering development in innovation — one that could lead to cures for brain-related illnesses as well as unimagined breakthroughs in artificial intelligence.
Today’s technology landscape would be completely altered.
Similar to the Human Genome Project to which it has already been already compared, the Brain Activity Map Project would open up the mysterious workings of what makes us human. We already know something of how the brain processes information, but thus far, we only have isolated bits and pieces. A full map would let researchers know how every neuron fires, how every thought comes into being, and how the human brain learns over time. A map would let us understand the link between thought, memory and emotion. Now, this is where things get really interesting (and possibly scary), understanding how the brain works could, perhaps, help us solve some of the greatest mysteries of our age: What is the essence of genius? Do we have a soul?