Nicholas Negroponte on the Future of Learning: Nanobots Will Hack the Brain

Nicholas Negroponte is one of the founding fathers of the Internet and today’s cyber-culture. In a recent video interview with Big Think, Negroponte describes future nanobots hacking our neurons to make us learn faster and better.

Negroponte created the prestigious MIT Media Lab and expanded ideas from his popular Wired columns into the bestselling book Being Digital, which made famous his forecasts on how the interactive world, the entertainment world and the information world would eventually merge. Many of Negroponte’s forecasts from the 80s have been realized, and it seems likely that his prediction on the long term future of learning in the 2040s – via neurohacking and nanobots – will be realized as well.

Nanobots will hack the brain like read/write computer memory

Nicholas NegroponteNegroponte believes that the disruptive technologies of the next decades will be synthetic biology and the interface between biology and silicon. He says:

The key to my prediction is the best way to interact with the brain is from the inside, from the bloodstream. Because if you inject tiny robots into the bloodstream they can get very close to all the cells and nerves and things in your brain, really close. So if you want to input information or read information, you do it through the bloodstream. [So] in theory you could load Shakespeare into your bloodstream and as the little robots get to the various part of the brain they deposit little pieces of Shakespeare or the little pieces of French if you want to learn how to speak French. So in theory you can ingest information.

The tiny robots – or nanobots – developed by advanced nanotechnology, would be far too small to be seen and would operate on the nanoscale (a nanometer if one billionth of a meter). Able to communicate wirelessly with each other and with the external world,  the nanobots would hack the brain like read/write computer memory. They would be ingested, perhaps in a pill, read the information encoded by the neurons and synapses in the brain and write new information into the brain. For example, as in Negroponte’s example, Shakespeare or a new language.

That sounds like science fiction, but science fiction often comes true and becomes applied technology. While we shouldn’t expect these developments for next year – Negroponte set his forecast 30 years in the future – current advances in neurotechnology encourage optimism. For example, we can already connect brains to computers via wireless sensors and play videogames by thought.

Also read: Infiniti Synaptiq – Drive With Your Mind

Images from Wikimedia Commons and Shutterstock.

Giulio Prisco is a freelance writer specialized in science, technology, business and future studies.