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Futurist Friday: Deep Brain Stimulation and Memory Implants

Category: Center for the Future Of Museums Blog

Are you a cyborg? Before you reply with a reflexive “no,” consider this list of technologies many people welcome into their bodies:

  • Contact lenses
  • Pacemakers
  • Insulin pumps
  • Artificial heart valves
  • Replacement joints (hip, knee)
  • Various birth control methods (IUD, subdural implants)
One emerging technology–neuroprosthetics–aims to compensate for disease or injury to the brain. 

Your Futurist Friday assignment, watch the video below, in which AJ demonstrates how electrodes implanted in his brain suppress the tremors caused by Parkinson’s Disease.

In a session at the AAM annual meeting last month, panelists helped me explore the eroding  boundary between assistive and augmentive techologies, between medically prescribed correctives and elective experimentation. Implants to improve memory, for example, might mitigate the effects of Alzheimer’s or traumatic brain injuries, or they might be adopted by “neurotypical” humans who want to enhance their abilities. 

After watching  AJ demonstrate his implants, ask yourself

  • What kinds of assistive implants would you accept or reject to manage medical issues or physical limitations?
  • What kinds of augmentive implants would you elect to adopt to enhance your abilities–physical, sensory or cognitive? 
Tim Cannon, co-founder and CIO of Grindhouse Wetware, a biohacking collective & technology startup in Pittsburgh, was one of my panelists at the conference session. Tim himself has experimented with a number of cybernetic implants because, as he shared with the audience, why wouldn’t he choose to be all that he can be? Food for thought, as we begin a century in which augmentive technology will be more common, safe, and affordable.

If you are intrigued by this topic, you may want to listen to a recording of the conference session on The Future of Ability, Disability and Accessibility (code 3336), where I was joined by Elizabeth Ziebarth (Smithsonian Institution), Day al-Mohamed (Department of Labor) as well as Ryan O’Shea and Tim Cannon of Grindhouse Wetware. Attendees were sent an free access code via email after the conference, and non-attendees can purchase recordings here
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