The concept is not particularly new, but as with all concepts, it takes time for the technology to catch up. In the 1960's the battle was on for Space. Now, the battles are fought daily and in boardrooms and labs from East to West. With DARPA on the one hand facilitating research into Neurprosthetics in the US, on the other the "Military-Civil" fusion in China works on Research through the China Defence Universities, a concern for most Intelligenvce Agencies, and undoubtedly doing the same. Somewhere inbetween, the 'cash-strapped' Russians play catch-up. Of course the UK has had its own waterered down version of DARPA through Innovate UK (sorry...but it is). This is set to change and has been on the cards for many years, but on this occassion it looks like Boris Johnson will be the one to unveil the new entity. Whatever form it takes, it really needs to ensure the seals are tight on this one, as there are no room for leaks in todays Innovation Wars. The real challenge as we see it is in succesfully coordinating the vast number of current projects. The 'visionaries' will have to harvest the key successes in a variety of fields and squeeze the very best out of each, to suit their purposes.
For Intelligence Orgnisations such as the CIA or MI6, this will focus on linking communications technology, data in secure cloud based environments maybe using advanced blockchain tech, financial technology (to securely and 'discreetly' fund the research) and of course the science itself. These do not even scratch the surface on what is involved. The marketing, not forgetting that sometimes looking as though we are ahead of the game, can be just as important as actually being ahead. The thorough Legal processes involved such as patent protection (also including diversion), the Political ramifications in terms of developing succesful cross-border partnerships etc. The list is almost endless so the task would daunting to even the most accomplished Project Manager (no wonder MI6 is expanding the sc-called 'Change Management' department. The prize however is a huge 'leg-up' in the next war(s) where, as Mr Younger puts it, Espionage 4.0 will play a pivotal role. How our friends the Amercians, and their sisters MI6 will meet this challenge, will be interesting indeed.
The UK Defense Secretary only just admitted, in a rather dramatic fashion, that the retreat from overseas entanglement by the US, now keeps him awake at night. That is probably doubtful and is probably merely another political soundbite to ring loudly at the next funding drive. It did however highlight the more serious point that the UK has been beholden to the US for far too long and especially in the air, and also in matters of intelligence. So, as always when a poorer, less celebrity laden team comes to the pitch, the owners have to spend wisely and ensure that every pound spent is carefully considered if they (we) stand a chance. We are in the same game now. So, although it might be nice PR and propaganda to talk of increasing troops and increased spending on tanks and hardware etc., the real victory will depend on which technologies the UK can harness control of faster and more effectively than its foes. To continue the sports analogy, the UK is simply not in a position to buy all the top strikers around today. It has to look way beyond and look at toddlers with technique and take a considered gamble on what technology will prove the most valuable in the future. One area we are particularly focused on at the moment are applications available from visual neuroprosthesis technology. This technology is not the next step, and maybe not even going to be of any real benefit the step beyond that. However, looking three steps ahead and this is where we are heading. If the age old innovation/imitation battle between the Western inventors and their Chinese counterparts is anything to go by, then nothing much will change. The idea itself is not particularly recent. In 2014 for example, the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering carried our work for DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) on a project aimed at developing a wireless, implantable brain device that could help restore lost memory function in individuals who have suffered debilitating brain injuries. So, aside from the more well known hearing aid implants, the work on other implants, to work on other functions, has been widespread in several private, government and academic science labs. What we are seeing now, is advancement in the practical application and success of neural implants which are having profoud effects on congitive functions. Regular readers may recall our articles 18 months ago which focussed on another element i.e sub-cutaneous chip research, in which we also referenced the digitzed manipulation of the Amygdalla (the brains 'emotion' regulator) and the potential implications on patients with severe psychopathy. It was and is representative of a pattern of growth which has developed for some time and brought us where we are now.
Bringing the focus back on the battle between competing countries however, for the UK, industrial espionage will continue to feature highly on its agenda both in terms of defender and aggressor. The dilemma is, does the UK feed off the US (who seem to be distancing themselves in various ways) and leave the funding of this innovation in the hands of the US Government, or does it do it itself? If it is the latter, then secrecy and IP protection (for what its worth) will be key factors in protecting their investment and also the security of the nation. We certainly have the talent and know how and pedigree to compete against the likes of Huawei or, more pertinently, the companies already being groomed by the Chinese State to step in as Huawei 2.0, 3.0 and so on. So the hope is that the current blip caused by a temporary 'off the hip' Trump administration, is very much just that, and plans will have been in place well before now to have planned for such events. Although the politicians might have us believe there is trouble at the ranch, the financial ties and intelligence bonds go far beyond the 'hype'. Trump and the US are unlikely to "fire" the UK just yet and for us, the canary in the mine is his hairdresser. Whilst she has a job, we know we are safe.
So, what is a visual neuroprosthetic? The audio version is probably more well known as the Cochlear Implant i.e. a relay between the hearing aid and neural network in the Cochlear to aide hearing. The same is the case with a visual neuroprosthetic. It is an artificial way (at the moment) of stimulating the visual pathways present in the eye and the visual sensations in the brain. In doing so, it opens up the possibility of removing artificial devices such as lenses altogther. Rather than having a prosthetic implant to improve or restore vision, its purpose will be to enhance already perfect vision and add further information directly to the retina. Scientists in The US and Netherlands have already experiemented with implanted chips to regulate the release of chemicals to the Amygdalla. Sub-cutaneous chips have been available and tested now for many years in order to transmit information to externally and via cloud technology. Combining visual neural systems with AI and IOT systems, will expedite intuitive and command driven action through prosthetics.
In terms of visual technology and where we stand with mainstream innovation at the moment, it is fairly well known what is on offer from Google and a growing fraternity of augmented reality/virtual reality firms and their glasses (called ‘smart glasses’). They are cheaply priced and will probably feature well in the Christmas stockings of many teenage gamers. The next step which firms such as Virtualenses (the VL Project) and others are working on, are digital contact lenses. The technological link from glasses to the third-generation wear of neurologically based enhancements. The race is on for sure. With digitized contact lenses, google enabled, recordable, cloud linked and fully interactive already being tested, the race is on for the neurological link between man and machine in the form of a prosthetic. The potential uses, even with just digital contact lenses or military grade glasses, is exceptional. The advantage will be, as with all future moves in technological development for the intelligence community, in more accurate targeting. Transforming 2D maps into 3D real world imagery containing millions of data points all converging and integrating in an intelligence/military ‘cloud’ to instantly disseminate visual information. Those of you of a certain age will recall the war films where planners turned building plans into actual buildings in warehouses to train their soldiers and provide as much realism as possible. The warehouse is gone now, and the maps are instantly relayed into screen fed information to the recipient. When the neuroprosthetic technology comes online, it will remove the need altogether for both learning about the target as well as even having to physically be at the target. The symbiosis between human, biological and physiological, and the cloud-based world will be seamless. It may well represent the final steps before the AI journey reaches its singularity and when the games really begin. But that’s another story. For now, it is a race and a race the UK is going to have to compete in on its own. The roots of the tree run deep and have many twists and turns. Funding will continue to be an important element but will still only be one of the branches of the whole tree. That has always been the case. The fight against the money launderers will continue, or should we say, appear to continue to rage. Overall however, the actual objective of ensuring the right funds hit the right accounts will be crucial in feeding the roots which will eventually allow the UK to blossom in full, with or without the US.
See a demonstration of how Visual Neuroprosthetics linked with IOT technology, will tranform even basic Intelligence Surveillance and Counter Surveillance operations for organisations like MI6. Click.