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Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 11 December

Google foresees an opportunity to chip into your brain

Google foresees an opportunity to chip into your brain

Photograph: I-stock

Google is not content with producing computers that we wear like spectacles, such as Google Glass: it is now envisaging computers that we fit inside our heads as well. The tech giant’s engineering director, Scott Huffman, has said that he envisages a time in the not too-distant future where Google users can fit a microchip into their brain and collect data on the go.

The technologist said that he could see typing search queries into Google’s search box becoming a thing of the past and that screens as we know them might soon become obsolete, because of, in the main, wearable devices such as Google Glass. But he also predicts a point where people will just have to think of a command and it will be carried out by a Google chip in the brain. Research is already making inroads in this area, with disabled wheelchair users thinking of commands that steer the chair.

“If you think hard enough about certain words, they can be picked up by sensors fairly easily. It’ll be interesting to see how that develops,” Mr Huffman said. The idea throws up all sorts of philosophical ideas about independent thought, the privacy of the mind and the amount of data we provide to big multinational internet firms. Mr Huffman also sees a role for fitting microphones in the ceilings of homes that will respond to voice commands, like computers on board spaceships in science fiction, which would connect users to their phones or tablet devices. “Imagine I say, ‘Can you bring up a video of the highlights of yesterday’s Pittsburgh Steelers game and play it on TV in the living room?’ and it works because the cloud means everything is connected,” Mr Huffman told The Independent this morning.

The engineer leads a team within Google that works on making the search engine more flexible and human to reflect real-life interactions. The new technology would mean that a user would not have to take out their phone to set a reminder for them to do something: they could just speak a command. “Like a great personal assistant, it will interrupt you and say, ‘You’ve got to leave now.’ It will bring you the information you want,” Mr Huffman said.

Questions for discussion or research:

1. What are the benefits of these technological advances? Can you think of any not mentioned in the article?
2. Are there any fictional pieces of technology from films or books that you’d like to see become a reality? Why?
3. Why might some people be very suspicious of wearable technology or in-brain microchips?
4. How might these advances in technology affect the way schools are run? Will schools even exist in the future?

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