William Gibson paints a detailed picture of what he thinks life will be like when we all have chips and jacks directly implanted into our brains. In the Neuromancer Trilogy we are shown what it will be like to be directly jacked in to our technology.

Machine dreams hold a special vertigo. . . [he] and fought his nausea. Again, he closed his eyes.... It came on, again. gradually. a flickering, nonlinear flood of fact and sensory data, a kind of narrative conveyed in surreal jump cuts and juxtapositions. It was vaguely like riding a roller coaster that phased in and out of existence at random. impossibly rapid intervals, changing altitude, attack, and direction with each pulse of nothingness, except that the shifts had nothing to do with any physical orientation, but rather with lightning alternations in paradigm and symbol system. The data had never been intended for human input.

Eyes open, he pulled the thing from his socket and held it, his palm slick with sweat. It was like waking from a nightmare. Not a screamer, where impacted fears took on simple, terrible shapes, but the sort of dream, infinitely more disturbing, where everything is perfectly and horribly normal, and where everything is utterly wrong . . . The intimacy of the thing was hideous. He fought down waves of raw transference, bringing all his will to bear on crushing a feeling that was akin to love, the obsessive tenderness a watcher comes to feel for the subject of prolonged surveillance.

Connecting our minds to the simulated intelligence of a computer may be way off, however, recently the connection between the brain and the machine has gotten much more intimate. One interesting example of such an intimacy is a device manufactured by a company called Medtronic, Inc.*.

Click image for a movie describing DBS
The device is known as a deep brain stimulator (DBS) and was approved for use in human patients in the Summer of 1997. It consists of an electrode inserted into the brain, which is connected to a pulse generator that is implanted into a cavity in the chest. When patients with disabling neuromuscular tremor (severe shaking) have this operation and turn on the stimulator their tremor almost instantaneously disappears or is dramatically reduced. The stimulator is turned on by waving a magnet over their chest where the generator is housed. This type of disability is most commonly associated with sufferers of Parkinson's disease - an extremely common neurological disorder affecting over one million people in the United States.

Another device which jacks in directly to the nervous system is the Cyberonics* Vagus Nerve Stimulation system. This device is used to control epileptic seizures. In a similar manner to the DBS device described above, when an implantee feels a seizure coming on (sometimes marked by an individualized "aura" or strange sensation) a manetic wand is waved over the pulse generator. The generator is connected directly to the Vagus Nerve. For reasons that are not yet perfectly clear, this seems to stop the seizure from coming on in many cases.

This may not be exactly what Gibson was talking about, but it certainly gives him some fuel for his arguments. This could be (is?) just the beginning of what will be a huge industry of brain implant devices.