Brain Enhancements

Once the brain is in an artificial form, it will be much easier to modify it. Assuming a good understanding of our neural circuitry, a number of enhancements and deletions will be possible. These will strain the definition of "human." At a minimum, it is probably best to prohibit modifying other people's brains without their fully informed consent. It may also be worthwhile to restrict certain types of modifications. Some of the changes which have been discussed follow.


Brain enhancements include added or extended senses (e.g., seeing ultraviolet light); increased working memory capacity; mental calculator or database; language modules, which allow you to speak and understand many languages; and telepathy. Some people may want to go further and more fully integrate their minds with computers, changing their very thought processes.


Some people may want to remove instincts which are no longer "needed." These could include food, sex, anger/violence, fear, and so on. Some may even try to remove all emotion. Although it may (or may not) be true that these no longer serve a logical purpose in an uploaded person, they are certainly an integral part of what we now understand "humanity" to be.

Memory Alterations

If mechanisms of human memory are well understood, it may be possible to manipulate our memories almost as easily as we manipulate disk files. This includes procedural memory -- for example, the ability to drive a car -- and episodic memory, such as your skiing trip last December. Memories could be deleted, added, or swapped between persons. (Note that this complicates the personal identity issue even further, but not beyond what fuzzy logic can handle: if I take some of Jane's memories, then I become a little bit Jane, but still mostly me.)

Like the other mind alterations, these are powerful tools which need to be used very carefully.

Mind Probing

A spin-off of memory technology would be a device which can search a person's memories for knowledge related to a specific event. This could be use to establish guilt or innocence of a crime, for example. However, if there are memory-altering techniques as well, then mind probing would no longer be conclusive. Also, mind probing has frequently been treated in discussion as an invasion of privacy -- or is it just a sophisticated polygraph test?

enhancements.html . . . . . . . . 10/08/94 . . . . . . . Joe Strout