The U.S. Military Wants To Build A Chip That Translates Your Brain Activity Into Binary Code

DARPA launches program to translate brain activity to binary code.

It has the makings of a sci-fi thriller, but it’s not from the producers of Total Recall or The Manchurian Candidate. Yesterday, the military’s blue-sky R&D agency announced its ambitious plan to create advanced brain-computer interfaces. In other words, the U.S. military wants to build a computer chip that will translate human brain activity into binary code.

The military didn’t just conceive this crazy idea out of nowhere. In 2013, researchers at Brown University designed the first implanted brain-to-computer interface. Since then, DARPA has taken on multiple brain chip projects, including one made to treat soldiers with PTSD and substance abuse issues. But as the military agency’s announcement points out, today’s brain-computer interfaces operate like “two supercomputers trying to talk to each other using an old 300-baud modem.” Hence, when it comes to transformative neurological applications, today’s technology isn’t fast enough. Were a brain-computer interface able to exchange information at a more rapid rate, it could potentially remedy a handicap such as blindness by using a camera that could transmit visual information to the brain. An implant would then be able to translate the data into neural language.

In an effort to make such scientific achievements, DARPA is green-lighting a new program it calls Neural Engineering System Design (NESD). The program is intended to spark left-field innovation within the science community. The end goal here for DARPA is to turn your brain activity into binary code, which would essentially enable human beings to talk to machines just by thinking. NESD may well lead to some groundbreaking technological advancements, but it also sounds like it could be the origin story for a half-dozen insane villains.

A press release from the military’s R&D agency features the following description of the DARPA initiative:

A new DARPA program aims to develop an implantable neural interface able to provide unprecedented signal resolution and data-transfer bandwidth between the human brain and the digital world. The interface would serve as a translator, converting between the electrochemical language used by neurons in the brain and the ones and zeros that constitute the language of information technology.


[Gizmodo via DARPA]

Photo Credit: Johnny Mnemonic

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Nate Santos

A born and bred New Yorker, Nate was raised on '90s hip-hop and AND1 streetball mixtapes. In his early college years, he began writing for music blogs and YRB Magazine, while working one of the scummiest jobs known to man, mobile phone sales. He later joined The SOURCE as a Contributing Editor for the print magazine and He has written for XXL magazine, and, among other media outlets. On occasion, he still loses sleep over Game 7 of the 1994 NBA Finals. He often copes with the stress of being a lifelong Knicks fan by adding to his sizable sneaker collection or watching a George Carlin stand-up special.