Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by WonderTeam. WonderTeam Wonders, “What is neurotechnology?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, WonderTeam!

Many of our Wonder Friends know a lot about the human brain. Others love to learn about technology. Are you interested in either of these topics? If so, today is your lucky day! This Wonder of the Day covers them both.

Neurotechnology is a special branch of technology. It includes any devices that read signals from the human brain. These devices take action based on the signals they read. Does that sound like something out of a science fiction movie? Are you picturing human cyborgs who will one day rule the world? Well, that’s not quite right (not yet, anyway!). 

Today, most neurotechnology is used in medicine. For example, people with ALS sometimes use devices that help them communicate. These machines read brain activity and speak for the person they’re connected to. This lets people carry on conversations they couldn’t otherwise have.

Another example is intelligent prostheses. These can greatly improve life for people who have had a limb replaced. The devices read signals from the brain and move like other parts of the body do. Does that sound incredible? Then hold on, because developers don’t plan to stop there. 

How would you like for your brain to connect directly to the Internet? That’s what Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, has in mind for the future of neurotechnology. His company, Neuralink, hopes to put digital chips in test patients’ brains by the end of 2020.

Why would you want a chip in your brain? Musk hopes they can be used to treat conditions like Alzheimer’s. They could also link humans to artificial intelligence. This could help improve people’s memory storage. Some believe that one day, neurotechnology could even allow people to communicate through telepathy. Future people might even be able to post to social media this way.

Will neurotechnology connect human brains through the Internet? Maybe. But it won’t happen anytime soon. Still, many companies are working to make new neurotechnology devices. In the future, everyday people might use them regularly. 

Can you picture it? Imagine a future when you can look up a question on Wonderopolis just by thinking about it. You can look at a friend across the room and tell them exactly what you’re thinking without saying a word. Maybe you can even order pizza from your favorite restaurant without pulling out your computer or phone. Imagine controlling all these things with your mind!

Does all of this sound exciting? Or maybe a bit scary? If you think so, you’re not alone. Many people have concerns about the future of neurotechnology. Specifically, they wonder how it will affect privacy. Many also worry about social equality and human identity.

Do you use neurotechnology? Would you want to use it in the future? Any new technology brings with it both benefits and challenges. How could these devices make life different?

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2, CCRA.SL.2, CCRA.W.4

Wonder What's Next?

Tomorrow, Wonderopolis will take a trip to the place that’s been there the longest!