Thanks to the White House’ $100 million “Apollo Project of the Brain,” the BRAIN Initiative to “reverse engineer the brain to find algorithms that allow computers to think more like humans,” experiments that many would find horrific are being conducted on mice.
Earlier this year, a Yale study was published in the journal Nature, in which neurobiologists infected mice with a virus that made their neurons sensitive to a certain kind of blue light.
Then, the team used a small optic fiber to shine a blue laser directly onto the amygdala, a region of the brain.
The laser made predatory behavior arise in the rodents, causing them to tense their jaw and neck muscles.
They hunted “just about everything placed in their paths,” according to the study. They hunted crickets, non-food items such as bottle caps, and became extremely aggressive.
According to the study:
“Predatory behaviours such as grabbing and biting are familiar to fans of nature documentaries, but the brain circuits involved remain a mystery. Previous research found that the central amygdala, an almond-shaped area of the brain involved in producing emotions including fear, was activated when rats hunt1. Researchers wanted to know whether the amygdala itself controls hunting behaviours, and a study published on 12 January in Cell2 suggests that it does.
To activate the central amygdala in mice, Ivan de Araujo, a neurobiologist at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and his colleagues used a technique called optogenetics. First, they infected the mice with a virus that made the neurons in their brains sensitive to blue light.”
Now, articles are being published about Optogenetics, the science of using light to manipulate living cells.
According to a detailed article from Techspot titled “Optogenetics: A Virtual Reality System for Controlling Living Cells: Neural Stimulation Through Light-Sensitive Proteins for Biological Manipulation”:
“Current optogenetic experiments rely on extracting “opsins” (light-sensitive proteins) from plants which can be introduced to mammals by methods including injection and infection via adenovirus.
Once delivered into an organism, opsins can be expressed in eye, brain or skin cells, allowing their light-sensitivity to be remotely activated or silenced with timed pulses of light in different color wavelengths across the light spectrum that can target multiple bodily systems and cause a variety of biological effects.”
The article lists several possibilities for optogenetics, including combining optogenetics with the CRISPR genetic modification technology: to make a set of photoactivatable tools, enabling the literal editing of an animal’s genome through the external application of light.
The tools could control the timing, location, and reversibility of the genome editing, which could entail modifying, activating, or repressing a particular gene.
The DARPA-funded Neural Engineering System Design (NESD) program is utilizing optogenetics, an integral feature of the program according to Tech Spot.
Continuing from their article, the program is a “joint effort between six teams who are aiming to create an implantable neural interface over the next four years that is capable of high resolution brain-to-machine communication. Such advancements, for instance, could facilitate the development of mind-controlled prosthetics featuring touch sensation like the DARPA-backed ‘Luke’ arm (previously known as the ‘Deka’ arm).”
For what purpose would “biological manipulation” with light be utilized? How could this technology possibly be used in an ethical way?
It’s unsettling to say the least, to know that the US government is working overtime to try and “map out the human brain,” to figure out better ways to manipulate it: to connect machines to the human brain.
According to a Scientific American article about DARPA’s role in the BRAIN Initiative:
“Now the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), a research organization for the intelligence community modeled after the defense department’s famed DARPA, has dedicated $100 million to a similarly ambitious project. The Machine Intelligence from Cortical Networks program, or MICrONS, aims to reverse-engineer one cubic millimeter of the brain, study the way it makes computations, and use those findings to better inform algorithms in machine learning and artificial intelligence. IARPA has recruited three teams, led by David Cox, a biologist and computer scientist at Harvard University, Tai Sing Lee, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, and Andreas Tolias, a neuroscientist at the Baylor College of Medicine. Each team has proposed its own five-year approach to the problem.”
DARPA is the agency responsible for creating robots of war, self guided “smart” bullets that don’t miss their targets, insect-like legs for helicopters to land on rough terrain, and worse. Their associates in the US Military are developing swarms of killing machine drones.
Harvard, Carnegie Mellon University, and many others are inseparable from the military industrial complex.
Are these the people we want to support, or should we invest our appreciation for science elsewhere? Do people really want their brains connected to machines?