The Matrix, here we come

NewScientist has reported here on an amazing breakthrough that's been years in the making.

A memory prosthesis is soon to be trialled that will allow the restoration of long-term memory, and potentially the uploading of new memories and skills. Whilst the sci-fi fans amongst us will rejoice at the potential to mimic Neo and upload combat skills in a blink, there are some amazing real-world potential uses.

Firstly, this could potentially help those suffering from dementia and related conditions that rob us of short term and then longer term memories and skills. Having seen first hand how this can reduce a strong and confident person to a lost child, I'm personally very excited about the potential of this kind of device.

Secondly this could be a huge boon to those who are disadvantaged by today's technology and world. For example older people or people suffering from a lower cognitive state could use this form of technology to assist them to integrate more freely. Instead of feeling isolated by an increasingly complex world, these people could have the necessary skills and memories directly available to allow them to integrate. Equally it could help refugees to quickly learn the language and culture of new countries they end up in. It could also help those with unique psychological conditions such as Prosopagnosia, where people are no longer able to recognise familiar faces. The potential wins are limitless. 

Even more importantly, this could open the way for increasingly complex systems. Right now our ability to use and understand complex systems has a relatively hard limit in current human perception and cognition. Technology that helps to shift that processing out of our heads and into assistive elements such as this could one day allow us to handle vastly more complex interfaces and computing tasks, without needing to have super brains ourselves. Not that I'm arguing for complexity, that's absolutely not the case - but extending our natural abilities and memories, and reducing the workload on new skill acquisition, can all help to increase the reach of the average user.

And that's something we should all be excited about.