When we think of cyborgs, we tend to think of the images we know from popular culture. But because movies and TV have to be visually entertaining, they tend to depict mainly the kind of cyborg upgrades that just look flashy - humans with robot arms and legs, prosthetics, etc.
And of course, that kind of cyborg is increasingly present in reality, from cochlear implants to Oscar Pistorius. But mechanical modifications to the human body are actually the least important way that we are about to learn to modify ourselves. Far more transformative will be the ways in which we upgrade our minds.
On that note, here is a story from Nature about a company that claims to be selling a technology that allows you to shock your brain in order to make you a better video gamer. The device uses tDCS, or trans-cranial Direct Current Stimulation, which seems to me to be the very first rudimentary form of Machine-Mind Interface. From the article:
For US$249 a company in the United States is promising to send curious and competitive players of computer games an unusual headset. The device, the company claims, will convert electronic gamers into electronic-gamers. At the touch of a button, the headset will send a surge of electricity through their prefrontal cortex. It promises to increase brain plasticity and make synapses fire faster, to help gamers repel more space invaders and raid more tombs...
Would it work? It might or it might not. Nobody knows. All we know for sure is that the technology, known as transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS), is likely to soon get into the hands, and onto the heads, of many more people...
The recent surge in interest in tDCS piggybacks on an increasing number of academic studies of its potential to boost cognitive ability, which themselves build on decades-old work using electrical stimulation of the brain to treat ailments such as depression...Last month, researchers at the University of Oxford, UK, published a study suggesting that random electrical stimulation of the brain could improve mathematical abilities[.]
Whether or not tDCS turns out to be practically useless, or too dangerous to use, the bigger message here is clear. Scientists and the public have turned their attention toward cognitive boosting cyborg technologies, and the combined weight of scientific research and consumer demand usually proves to be an irresistible force.
In other words, the cyborg revolution is underway, and it's all about the brain and the mind.