Hafiz Abdul Majid :
Humans are biologically named Homo sapiens, or “wise men.” Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish biologist, and physician, coined this term in 1758. We are wise because we can think, learn, and communicate. All these faculties are due to the human brain, which hardly makes up 2 % of our body size. This tiny organ on our shoulders, which weighs only 3 pounds, has made humans the unchallenged ruler of the planet Earth.
With their superior intelligence, they have built machines to fly in the air and explore the depths of oceans. With their astounding cognitive and behavioral capabilities, they have unlocked many secrets of nature. They have landed on the moon and successfully sent unmanned spacecraft to Mars. Despite all these feats performed by humans, there are some unsolved secrets to unravel. The greatest mysteries that humanity is grappling with are – the universe and the human brain.
The human brain is the most fascinating and complete structure in the universe
Perhaps the human brain is the most fascinating and complex structure in the universe. Though it has a very small size i.e. 1350 cubic centimeters, yet human brain remains an enigma beyond human ken. Scientists have embarked on different projects to unlock this mystery.
Developed countries are pumping billions of dollars in these projects, aimed at understanding the functioning of the human brain. Owing to the enormity and complexity of the challenge, scientists in diverse fields like neuroscience, physics, chemistry, biology, statistics, and computer science have teamed up to work on these projects. It is believed that these projects will take many years to accomplish any final mapping or simulation model of the human brain. It is believed, hacking the human brain, will usher humanity into a post-human era, altering the course of human history.
US launches BRAIN project in 2016
Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurologies (BRAIN), is one of such projects launched by the US government in 2016. It mainly focuses on the analysis of neuronal circuits by mapping the neural pathways in the brain. It is a gigantic task to map 100 billion neurons in the brain. According to neuroscientists each of these neurons is connected with 10,000 other neurons. To pass signals among these neurons there exists another dense web of at least 1,000 trillion synaptic connections. This project was initially funded with a whopping amount of $ 3 billion.
EU launches Human Brain Project
The Human Brain Project (HBP), is another human brain research initiative funded and launched by the European Union. The objective of the HBP is to decode the human brain by producing a simulation of the human brain in a neuromorphic supercomputer. It was a ten-year program started in 2013, and European Commission allocated a staggering grant of 1 billion euro for this project. China and Japan have also embarked on similar projects of their own.
These projects are considered game changers for humanity. Advocates of these projects believe that akin to advancement in nuclear physics, and decoding of the human genome the human brain projects will trigger another dramatic historical epoch in human history. Apart from the promising benefits in the treatment of mental ailments, these projects can offer tremendous opportunities for the enhancement of human brain capabilities.
One in every eight people in the world suffers from some kind of mental disorder: WHO
According to the World Mental Health Report (2022), published by the WHO, one in every eight people in the world suffers from some kind of mental disorder. These studies of the human brain will help us understand neuropsychiatric disorders, diagnose these ailments and effectively treat them. Diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, autism, schizophrenia, and depression etc. will be easy to treat and patients suffering from these diseases will be able to live a normal life.
Neuralink, a neurotechnology company formed by Elon Musk in 2016
Besides accelerated biomedical knowledge and improved treatment of mental disorders, resulting from human brain studies, scientists are optimistic that a better understanding of the brain will immensely benefit patients with brain injuries. Damaged parts of the brain can be repaired and made functional by neural implants. One such wonderful implant device has been developed by Neuralink, a neurotechnology company formed by Elon Musk in 2016. This device is named Neuralink- N1, when implanted in the human brain, it serves as an interface between the human brain and the computer. The US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), has recently allowed the Neura Link to implant their brain-readable chips in humans. With the help of this chip, users will be able to connect, communicate and control their computers and mobile phones through their thoughts.
Yuval Noah Hariri
envisions a future when the human brain will be re-engineered
Through implants in the brain, paralyzed patients will be able to use their bionic limbs as conveniently as they would use their organic limbs. They will be able to use and control the computers and machines by using their thoughts. Yuval Noah Hariri, envisions a future when the human brain will be re-engineered and neural networks are replaced by intelligent software, liberating human beings from the limitations of their organic bodies.
Some scientists and writers like Ray Kurzweil, Martin Rees, and Michio Kaku claim that further development in neurotechnology will enable us to transfer human minds into robots and experience life outside our organic mortal bodies. They also believe humans can outlive their organic selves by downloading their memories and consciousness onto computers.
“To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom”, Socrates said two thousand years back
The pace of scientific developments and advancement in the past few decades have been marvelous. Socrates, the greatest of philosophers, more than two thousand years back, said “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom”. It appears that we have started the journey to understand ourselves. After decoding the human genome, humanity is now all set to unwrap the most sophisticated and intelligent of machines in the universe. Transhumanists believe that with this exponential speed of development, it will not be very long before humans will enter the next stage of their evolution. Technologies like genetics, robotics, artificial intelligence and nanotechnology, will be widely used to redesign humans, by radically improving their minds, memories, behavior, and physiology.
The author is one of the top officers in the Balochistan government
Twitter Account: @MajidBuhair