Far Out Tech

The U.S. Military Wants to Inject People's Brains With Painkilling Nanobots That Could Replace Medicine

Warning: This is not science fiction. The U.S. Military is making plans to inject people’s brains with artificially intelligent nanobots that will give them awesome, Wolverine-like powers to heal themselves.

Yes, this sounds like a crock of futuristic crazysauce from the pages of a Marvel Comics thriller, but this is for real.

DARPA, the American government’s controversial, ultra high-tech military gadget and research lab, is developing wireless, “ultra-miniaturized” and injectable electronic devices that could eventually -- and quite literally -- get on people’s nerves. Luckily only in ways that heal their pain and keep them healthy. Or so the Department of Defense-funded agency says.

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The agency remains mum on exactly how the devices will be injected, other than to say that they “would require only minimally invasive insertion producers such as injectable delivery through a needle."

The five-year, $80 million government bankrolled neuroprosthetic research program is fittingly called the Electrical Prescriptions initiative. But you can call it ElecRx (pronounced electrics) for short. It’s part of President Obama’s BRAIN campaign to help “warfighters and civilians suffering from traumatic injury and neuropsychiatric illness.”

DARPA says the goal of the project is to create “new, high-precision, minimally invasive technologies for modulating nerve circuits to restore and maintain human health.” Translated, the hope is that the agency’s tiny “intelligent pacemaker” implants -- as miniscule as individual nerve fibers -- will replace medications. They might also render obsolete the bulky, card deck-sized surgical brain implants already in use today to treat things like depression, epilepsy, Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  

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Functioning in a seamless, “closed-loop system,” the government's smart nano doohickeys would act like mini remote controls that automatically monitor and regulate the body’s peripheral nervous system 24/7. They would constantly adjust the users’ internal organs and how they respond to injury, infection and other imbalances.

Yep, the little doodads could one day help people heal themselves. Let’s just hope that’s the only thing they’re used for (insert skeptical, mind-control comment here).

Related: FDA Approves First Mind-Controlled Prosthetic Arm

Edition: October 2016

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