Nanobots, neural dust & the future of our brains

Ray Kurzweil, the director of engineering at Google, has made many predictions about the future evolution of our brains, and the merging of our neurobiology with technology. One fascinating prediction was regarding nanobots and the sending them into our brains to expand the capabilities of the neocortex. Nanotechnology and nanobotics involves the creation of robots that are 0.1-10 micrometres and constructed of molecular components.

These nanobots could be trained to delivery drugs to cancer cells, help assist healing and many other functions. But in the realm of neurotechnology, nanobots have been described as being able to enhance cognitive capabilities. We have 100 billion neurons in our brain and through nanobots we may have the potential to connect our cortex to the cloud, having infinitely more processing capacity and knowledge. This will create non-biological access to intelligence, knowledge and skills.

Neural dust was created in 2016 at Berkley University by Dongjin Seo as part of his PhD, which involved a microsensor that could be activated using ultrasound, and could be implant in the body (including the brain) to pick up electrical signals. In 2018 the same team of researchers announced StimDust, the smallest nerve stimulator 6.5 cubic mm (around 1/3- 1/4 of the size of a grain of rice). It can sense neural activity and then affect the peripheral nerve by stimulating it. DJ Seo is now one of the co-founders of Neuralink and it is exciting to think how quickly this technology could now advance to help people with cognitive disabilities.