Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Ultra-Tech: Issues with Implants

A common indicator of futuristicness in games, movies, and tv shows is implanted technology. The most ubiquitous implants are usually radios/headsets, and full on computers integrated right into the brain to give an overlay of the internet. Often the ability to plug one's head into computers is displayed on occasion, either through jacks right in the skull/neck or through a proxy brain interface thing.

Somehow, I just don't see it happening. When I think of implanted radios, I can't help but think of all the times I've gone through places with weird electromagnetic characteristics, that cause headphones to squeal at max volume. Obnoxious if you can pull them out, significantly worse if they're embedded into your skull. Similarly, the possibility of undergoing brain surgery if one of the connecting wires from the implanted computer goes bad seems like a bit much (but is less of an issue once medical microbots/nanobots are available). The human body doesn't really possess much in the way of spare empty space up in the skull, so any computer would need a surgical operation to open up enough room to sit. It's a further surgery (possibly minor) to upgrade to this year's model, unless the implant socket is designed to allow them to be swapped as one might swap out a chip. Cyberbrains that make the entire brain readily removed and worked on without difficulties would make implanted tech more accessible across the board (be it prosthetics or just upgrades over the meat), but is of course its own significant can of worms.

Personally, if I were to get something done to make my headset more permanent, it would be a piercing. Put a hole right through the cartilage flush with the side of the skull. A simple, non-invasive, well known procedure, and makes the headset both sturdy and easily removed for privacy/repair/replacement.

There's one other category of implant that I WOULD actually trust, because they don't really go obsolete, or at not nearly the same rate as electronics. That would be weaponry and tools. One of my policies when building a character, and indeed going about my daily life, is to keep a knife handy at all times. Even still, it can be slow or difficult to access if you need it in a pinch. Why not get one built right into your hand? You'll always have it if you need it. Cyberguns are similarly readily available, although without substantial failsafe engineering they present significant possibilities for problems, as you point the gun embedded in your hand/arm at everything you interact with. Condition 2 or 3 on the gun would seem prudent at minimum, if not having them designed such that when not "active" the gun can't even go into battery.

Note that most of the downsides of implants are mitigated if they're implanted in chrome. If you've lost a limb, taken a severe injury that needed a bunch of repairs, or whatnot that can be done such that upgrades and changes are pretty readily accomplished (the device is built with standardized slots for tech and upgrades). Just like computers, if you plan to keep something for a while it's best to have parts easily swapped out.


  1. Actually, there's gobs of unused space in your skull for this stuff.

    I had a doctor friend go through it with me once, there's little voids and cavities all through the thing.

    And don't forget how miniaturized this stuff will be by the time that it's commercially viable. Implantation might be as fast and simple as getting your ears pierced. Something like a cell phone set into the bone behind your ear would do and that's a shallow enough space of skin that it'd be out-patient today.

    Interface jacks and visual displays on your optic nerve are going to be a lot more invasive, but I think that the barriers to adoption are psychological and cultural not technical. I can almost see a combination of targeted radiation like they're doing with tumor removal merged with 3D printing to inlay the circuits after the patient has been doped up with the material that interacts with the intersecting beams. Or even an injection of nano-assemblers to build the required pathways.

    Take a pill and wait for the boot screen in your field of vision... Consult your physician if blindness or an erection lasting longer than four hours occurs; especially if female.

    1. Once again, I'm reminded that I need to not post things hastily and/or while extremely tired, so as to not half ass things and so I do my usual research and such.

      I figured it'd be most likely mounted right in the vicinity of the ear, but because I'm terrible and always 5 years behind modern tech, was picturing "futuristic and tiny" as being somewhere between a cell phone battery and MAYBE an SD card. For reference, conducting a hands-free conversation using a wired pair of earbuds was sufficient to make my brain go "It's like I'm in the future!"
      If a computer worth mounting to your brain is merely SD card sized, it actually raises some questions about the future equivalent of a smart phone, where any screen of useful size will be many times the size of the actual computer to work it. Do you just have a screen drastically larger than needed to hold the computer itself, and fill the rest of the space with enough batteries to last for weeks of use? Maybe go the google glass route and use brain scan tech to control it? Otherwise the only other real option is holo-displays if they're easily available, which actually makes it seem more prudent to just stick it under the skin somewhere and plug it into your brain.

      Thinking more, if I had to guess they'd just be installed by way of one of those air injector things and connect it by way of nano-assemblers. Not even a surgery, just a blast to stick it under the skin if it's small enough. Slap a bandaid over it and take a pill full of nanotech, you now have a fancy cyberbrain. Nano assemblers make things waaay easier no matter how the rest gets installed.

      I also write this as someone afflicted with a fairly severe case of Gremlins, regardless of what system I'm in (including real life). Technology doesn't care for me, which in turn makes me suspicious of it, no matter how much I like it.