[...] Darpa has also committed $60 million to create what’s known as a “direct cortical interface,” a brain-computer connection unlike any that exists today. Neural implants like Emily Borghard’s can stimulate and record from just a handful of neurons. Darpa hopes to create a neural interface that can connect to as many as one million neurons.
A fully functional brain-computer interface on this scale would, in theory, turn a person into a programmable, debuggable machine—just like a computer. What used to be accomplished through drugs, training, education and psychotherapy could someday be achieved by more direct means. The goal is something akin to the scene in “The Matrix” where Keanu Reeves’s character learns kung fu from a quick download. “It’s almost like the design-build-test cycle” for designing new hardware and software, says Justin Sanchez, director of the biological technologies office at Darpa. This cycle of building a prototype, measuring its performance in the real world, and tweaking accordingly is how humans refine new technologies. Thanks to neurotech, we could someday use the same process to refine our brains.