In "Star Trek" lore, the Borg are cybernetic organisms linked in a hive mind known as the Collective. They scour the universe looking for other creatures to forcibly convert to their collective consciousness using nanoprobes that can be injected into hapless victims, who they assimilate into the hive.
The Borg is widely depicted as an oppressive force in the fictional universe of "Star Trek," but there are some real-life scientists who may not have gotten the message.
An international collaboration, led by researchers at UC Berkeley and the U.S. Institute for Molecular Manufacturing, has published a new analysis predicting that nanotechnology breakthroughs are inevitably leading us to develop a "Human Brain/Cloud Interface" (B/CI) that connects brain cells to vast cloud-computing networks in real time, reports MedicalXpress.com.
The technology is derived from the work of futurist Ray Kurzweil, who is perhaps most famous for the book "The Singularity is Near," in which he predicted that the human race will eventually merge with artificial intelligence.
The latest step in this direction has to do with the development of nanobots that are safe to inject into the human brain that can monitor and control signals to and from brain cells for easy upload to the cloud.
"These devices would navigate the human vasculature, cross the blood-brain barrier, and precisely autoposition themselves among, or even within brain cells," explained Robert Freitas Jr., senior author of the new research. "They would then wirelessly transmit encoded information to and from a cloud-based supercomputer network for real-time brain-state monitoring and data extraction."
Sound a little too much like the Borg? Not to worry, say researchers. It's all being developed with the best of intentions.
A universal superbrain
Imagine a world where you could instantly access all the information on the internet, and could even learn new skills using a Matrix-like interface that downloads information straight into your brain. Ultimately, humanity can develop a universal superbrain — a collective consciousness — that we can all tap into. You know, for the sake of world peace and global enlightenment.
"With the advance of neuralnanorobotics, we envisage the future creation of 'superbrains' that can harness the thoughts and thinking power of any number of humans and machines in real time," explained lead author Dr. Nuno Martins. "This shared cognition could revolutionize democracy, enhance empathy, and ultimately unite culturally diverse groups into a truly global society."
Of course, we'll need supercomputers with superior processing speeds to avoid a complete bottleneck of information, before any sort of idealistic B/CI world can ever develop. But that technology is well on its way, predict the researchers.
Another challenge? Convincing people to inject nanobots into their brains. There are still significant hurdles to getting these tiny technological overlords safely into our heads through the blood/brain barrier. But like with most technology, if it's possible, it's probably inevitable.
Resistance is futile, as the Borg likes to say.
We can only hope that when the technology is eventually developed, that we'll have the choice to opt-in or opt-out, without zombie-like cybernetic peers chasing us down attempting to assimilate us into the Collective. Then again, if the number of hours we each spend staring at our phones is any indication, maybe we'll all go willingly.