Brain Implants for Memory

Last week in class we each presented on various topics. One I was extremely interested in was the idea of having an earpiece that connects to our brain. This would then allow for the recording and storage of memory for later playback. Such a technology seems very far into the future, and there are many ethical concerns regarding it as well.

This idea is similar to what I have seen before in the television show “Black Mirror”. In one of the episodes, we see that the people have a neural device, called a “grain”, implanted on their temples which allow for the recording and storage of memory. Thus all memories can be played back and seen once again if needed. Throughout the episode we see that this technology is used as a replacement for real life, and so the best moments in the people’s lives can be replayed over and over to replace what was really occurring.

Black Mirror episode "The Entire History of You" Protagonist Viewing Memories on His Grain

The technology in place today in order for this device to work seems very rudimentary. The presentation went over research discussing simulating brain signals and nerve impulses to induce memory, but this is not very specific and it would be hard to exactly pinpoint a specific memory with this technique. Who knows, in the next century the research might reach a point where it can be done but as of now, the idea is farfetched. I believe in order to get this to work better, a way to figure out which neural signals are for memory is needed. A device to make this happen is, however, extremely hard to even fathom at this day.

Grain Interface

Research in this could also be done with people who have eidetic memory. Stephen Wiltshire can draw the entire London skyline after a single helicopter ride once around the city. Maybe there are neural pathways in his brain that are working that could be replicated in order to make this technology a reality. However, research on people is inhumane and this probably would not be pursued.

Stephen Wiltshire Drawing the London Skyline

Ethically, being able to replay old memories seems like there would be no downsides. Everyone could remember everything, nothing would be forgotten, the best memories in life can be replayed, and also it would lead to people being more productive. Though this may sound great, the memories were also used to incriminate people and find fault. Also, being able to replay everything could make people lazier, since studying and other acts for remembering are no longer requirements. The technology makes people‘s lives much easier, but also it would erase the need for many things, such as some forms of extended social interaction. This was discovered by the protagonist in the show and drove him crazy, so at the end of the episode, the protagonist ended up taking off his neural device and so lives the rest of his life without it.

Overall, I believe this technology is not needed in society. I also believe it is too complicated to be successfully done in reality within the next 50 years.