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Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation: DARPAspeak for Gotterelektrongruppe

April 17, 2011 at 5:32 pm

(ETA: Uhhh, that was supposed to be, "stimulation," not, "situation."  Fixed now.)

Reader John Murphy (thanks, John!) sent me a link to this article in Nature

Why?  Because DARPA is funding research that involves hooking people's heads to batteries to improve their abilities at certain tasks.  Oh, and one of the pioneers of the modern incarnation of this research?  A German neurologist who experimented on members of his own family.  (And dare I wonder if this implies the research was carried out on his family land?)  Meanwhile his colleagues were telling him that the research was unethical, "fucking dangerous", and that he ought to stop it right away.

I can't help but get a chuckle out of this... a very worried chuckle.

Seriously—if DARPA is getting in on this, how long will it be before they upgrade from improved performance on simple tests to walking through walls and turning invisible?  After all, the stated goal of the project (according to the article, anyway) is to "sharpen soldiers' minds on the battlefield." But obviously that's bureaucratic doublespeak for ZOMG WE'RE MAKING SUPERHEROZ.  I know how to read between the lines.

And oh yeah, there's talk of implanted electrodes.  Because of course there would be.  Step 1:  Permanently implant the electrodes.  Step 2:  Upgrade to a larger, rechargeable battery.  Step 3:  World domination.

Some researchers in the field are experimenting with more complex arrangements of multiple electrodes.  Because, again, of course they are.  It's just common sense.

Even better?  There's a home hobbiest movement among people who want to experience transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) for themselves.  Which gives rise to my favorite quote in the article:

"With wires and batteries and home hobbyists trying to run electricity through their heads, somebody could get hurt."

Sure, somebody could get hurt... or they could achieve complete mastery of the Willenskräfte.  I think a little itching and a mild burning sensation would be a small price to pay for becoming a LIVING GOD.  Don't you?


Adrienne April 17, 2011 at 6:42 pm
I installed the Sony tDCS system like three years ago. Get on Twitter, Ian.
Ian April 17, 2011 at 7:12 pm
Yeah, and Sony probably installed a secret rootkit in your brain when you did that. So now you can't use your superpowers except when the Corporate Man says you can.
Steve Halter April 18, 2011 at 5:09 pm
And so, DARPA's real reason for the funding of TCP/IP and other "over the wire" protocols comes into startling focus.
Ian April 18, 2011 at 10:01 pm
You know, they say that when you tape the entire Internet to your scalp, it supposedly blows the doors of perception WIDE OPEN.
John Murphy April 19, 2011 at 7:37 am
On the one hand, it would be pretty nifty to be a living god. And it would be nice to be able to blame my personality flaws on the wires sticking out of my head. On the other hand, it sounds like I'd have to learn German, and I'm way too lazy for that.
Melinda April 19, 2011 at 10:03 am
This is so wonderful. It's also nuking futs, but hey, it's such a small price for world domination. I hope you sent this to your agent and your new editor. I think they'd both get a terrific kick out of it.
Ian April 19, 2011 at 10:25 am
On the other hand, it sounds like I'd have to learn German, and I'm way too lazy for that. Oh, dude, I hear you. I studied Spanish because it was, for my ears and tongue, the most phonetically scrutable language I could find. I enjoyed it... but it isn't much help when I do readings and can't pronounce half the phrases. I blame my personality flaws on the insane genius sadist doctor who raised me at his personal science-based orphanage.
Ian April 19, 2011 at 10:41 am
It's also nuking futs, but hey, it's such a small price for world domination. Damn straight! I hope you sent this to your agent and your new editor. That's a great idea. I'm going to do that now!
Serge Broom April 19, 2011 at 10:50 am
I think I'll stick with strong coffee. Besides, I wouldn't look good wearing tights.
Ian April 19, 2011 at 10:58 am
Wow, Serge-- your coffee must be extra strong if it enables you to fly or see the future :) Please send me your brewing technique ASAP.
Corry April 19, 2011 at 1:54 pm
What they won't do with science. I'm going to go run away in fear now. No wires for this brain, please. (Unless, you know, it really does work!)
Ian April 19, 2011 at 10:29 pm
But if you had wires in your brain, you could fly away. Or teleport! Or who knows what! All I know is that running is for chumps when you have a battery connected to your head.
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