How Much Smarter?

Brain Bots?

As knowledge about the human brain increases, researchers think that they may be able to redesign the way we learn and make our memory more powerful and reliable. Richard Schlesinger reports from the cutting edge of brain research.

One of those researchers is computer scientist Ray Kurzweil. His view of the future includes millions of tiny computers floating around inside the human brain. "We'll be able to send intelligent machines the size of blood cells - I call them nanobots - through our blood stream, " he says.

"You can swallow them. Billions of them will take up positions in the brain. They'll communicate with each other. And they'll actually expand the human brain. They'll add more memory, more cognitive ability," Kurzweil says.

According to Kurzweil, the nanobots would enter the brain and stop near brain cells that control different functions and thoughts. Once they are near the brain cells, the nanobots will communicate with them - a melding of human and machine.

"You would be able to download skills into the nonbiological...portion of your intelligence," Kurzweil says. "You'd be able to do things you wouldn't otherwise be able to do. You'd be able to have experiences you wouldn't otherwise be able to have."

University of Southern California scientist Theodore Berger says that Kurzweil's ideas are not farfetched.

Berger is also doing brain research. He has shown that brain cells can grow on microchips - and communicate with them. Berger thinks that sometime in the near future, scientists will be able to build devices that will to a certain extent mimic the abilities of the human brain.

"We are a set of circuits," Berger says. "Those circuits perform a given set of functions." Researchers hope to reproduce those trillions of circuits and eventually mimic every emotion and subtlety those neurons create.

Berger thinks that scientists will succeed and will be able to replicate every human emotion, on a microchip.

Eventually, Kurzweil says, the line between humans and computer will blur. "The line will begin to be blurred in 2030," he says. "And as we get to 2040, 2050 there'll be a very profound blurring of that line."