Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the technology development wing of the U.S. Department of Defense, is looking to install “black boxes” in soldiers' brains to help revive memory.
Since 2000, an estimated 280,000 soldiers endured brain injuries. If soldiers could be furnished with the device, the complex black box technology could potentially trigger memory and mitigate brain loss suffered in combat.
While DARPA, naturally, set its sights on military applications, implications for dementia and alzheimers patients stirs excitement. Geek predicts the neurotechnology “could become a key 'upgrade' for humans in the coming decades.”
But even advocates admit the technology faces a long, uncertain climb. Especially since neuroscientists are still not sure how memory works. Bloomberg reports, “It’s still far from certain that such work will result in a device.”
While potential applications are exciting, they are limited. Geoff Ling, Deputy Director of DARPA’s Defense Sciences office, explained to Bloomberg:
The DARPA initiative isn’t designed to recover the type of memories used to recall a person’s name. Instead, it would help wounded warriors recover 'task-based motor skills' necessary for 'life or livelihood.'
They hope the tax-funded implants will help patients remember how to do simple, everyday activities like “tie their shoes and perhaps eventually operate machinery or fly planes” Ling said.
DARPA has a history of sponsoring some weird technology. Think wall-climbing suits called “gecksin,” inspired by geckos. But its research also helped lead to the Internet. It recently closed a contract with IBM for “self-destructing” technologies and launched a plan to “revolutionize web search.”