Sad? UCSF Scientists Implant Brain Chip to Make You Happy

Melancholy is part of the human condition. Neural implants can fix that.

A 36 year-old woman who suffered from life-long depression, known only as “Sarah,” appears to have been cured by a digital brain implant. Unable to alleviate her chronic sadness with counseling or pills, she became the first person to overcome the trance of sorrow through transhumanist innovation.

Deep sadness is as old as attachment and loss. Jacob was inconsolable when he thought his son Joseph had been devoured by a wild animal. Gilgamesh called on every creature to mourn when his best friend Enkidu succumbed to an illness sent by the gods. This emotional vulnerability, oftentimes fatal in itself, extends out into the entire mammalian world. The Buddha called it dukka, or “suffering.”

Even sea turtles cry when they crawl out on land. Biologists say the tears merely protect their eyes, but who knows? Maybe it’s heartbroken turtles all the way down.

Soon, we may finally be free. In a purely material world—bereft of miracles, spiritual enlightenment, or divine grace—modern medicine offers better living through brain chips.

Happiness is a Warm Electrode

Last year, scientists at the University of California, San Francisco began their project by mapping the unique neurological correlates of Sarah’s depressive states. They inserted ten electrodes into her brain, and after ten days of “stimulus-response mapping of emotional circuitry”—coupled with non-invasive deep brain stimulation—they were able to identify both the source and the solution.

Science News reports:

During this mapping phase of the experiment, Sarah felt joy when the right spot was stimulated. “I laughed out loud,” she said in the briefing. “This was the first time I had spontaneously laughed and smiled where it wasn’t faked or forced in five years.”

The team concluded that Sarah’s crushing unease came from overactive gamma waves in her amygdala, part of the brain’s reptilian core. They also discovered her sadness could be alleviated by applying electrical stimulation to her striatum, a limbic structure implicated in reward experiences. Striatal activity radiates outward to distant regions of the brain, with varying effects in different people.

Having mapped the territory using machine learning processes, neurosurgeons set to work refashioning the landscape. They installed a Neuropace RNS System on top of the woman’s skull. The device resembles a flat desktop mouse with two wires coming out.

Surgeons inserted these two leads into her gray matter. One electrode detects activity in her amygdala. The other stimulates her striatum in response. Through this closed-loop system, Sarah’s major depressive disorder appears to be healed. It’s another milestone in the merging of frail humans with the indomitable Machine.

“As time has gone on, it’s been this virtuous cycle, a spiral upwards,” Sarah said. “Everything has gotten easier and easier.”

The results of this sixteen month trial were published in Nature Medicine.

Merging With the Machine

This procedure was only made possible by machine learning. Sarah’s brain activity first had to be analyzed and replicated in silica, then her mood manipulated biologically in a desired direction.

Concurrent with this experiment, the same basic process—coupling artificial intelligence with a neuroprosthetic—was employed to translate a stroke victim’s intended speech into digital text. Incidentally, both studies involved Edward Chang, whose UCSF projects have been funded by both DARPA and Facebook.

Brain implants have also been used to treat Parkinson’s disease, to control bionic limbs, and to restore memory. The device used to cure Sarah’s depression, the Neuropace RNS System, has been widely used since 2013 to treat epilepsy. In fact, DARPA’s research and development programs on the brain-computer interface go back to at least the 60’s, with the cutting edge work of J.C.R. Licklider.

On the darker end of the spectrum, Shaun Patel at Harvard Medical School has demonstrated that brain implants can also be used to control human behavior.

Much like a wearable FitBit or the ubiquitous smartphone, today’s digital brain implants represent an early stage of the human-AI symbiosis that transhumanists long to establish. At present, this great merger is ostensibly conducted in the service of human beings. But if the Cult of the Singularity sees their dreams come true, machines shall become as gods to mere humans, and we will be left with no choice but to worship them.

From Treatment to Enhancement

Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who uncovered the NSA’s sinister PRISM program, recently joked:

“When people are like ‘they gon microchip me to talk to the satellites,’ I'm like, my man: can you imagine how much people would pay for an unlimited-plan phone you never have to charge? And you think they're just gonna put it in you for free? You don't even have insurance.”

Snowden has a good point. Then again, how long did it take to go from elite Wall Street brokers with brick cellphones on their cheeks to a smartphone in every palm? The same question can be asked about brain implant technology, or any other. There are powerful people with big plans for our future.

Across the board, the proposed historical course toward transhumanism is “from treatment to enhancement.” Parag Khanna and his wife explained that progression in their 2012 manifesto Hybrid Reality: Thriving in the Emerging Human-Technology Civilization:

“All our natural biological processes are increasingly subject to technological intrusion. ... Eventually, the combination of bioengineering, optogenetics, and neuroprosthetics could create the possibility of turning humanity into a kind of cyborg with regenerative parts that would make us effectively immune to aging and disease.”

The globalist Khanna is the ideal Davos Man, groomed and promoted by the World Economic Forum. So it came as no surprise when the WEF’s chairman Klaus Schwab, writing in his earth-shaking 2016 book The Fourth Industrial Revolution, expressed similar ambitions:

“Pacemakers and cochlear implants were just the beginning of this, with many more health devices constantly being launched. ... Implanted devices will likely also help to communicate thoughts normally expressed verbally through a ‘built-in’ smartphone, and potentially unexpressed thoughts or moods by reading brain waves and other signals.”

Elon Musk plans to use his Neuralink brain implant to do exactly that. Ray Kurzweil, a Google R&D director and prophet in the Cult of the Singularity, foresees similar mystical powers emerging from blood-borne nanobots.

These are not the fantasies of powerless men. This is a civilizational transformation unfolding according to competing plans, all of which converge on a shared dreamworld.

To Chip or Not to Chip

It’s hard to protest any medical procedure that alleviates suffering. Anyone who has lost a loved one, endured a divorce, or been hit by any life-shattering tragedy knows the suffocating sadness that can pin you to your bed—or drive you over the edge completely. Despite the mounting evidence that antidepressants may be less effective than organic interpersonal therapy, even on a neurological level, it’s hasty to dismiss the idea that some are born with brains that tend toward depression.

Still, there’s the difficult question of how to deal with it. Christians describe a fallen human race cursed with original sin. Buddhists speak of the suffering that results from disease, old age, and death. These traditional religions offer prayer and meditation, ritual and purification, confession and divine intervention.

Modern society has little patience for religious solutions, though. As technology produces miracle after miracle—albeit rife with unforeseen failures and unintended consequences—it becomes ever more difficult to deny the power of Scientism and its medical priesthood. If the boldest predictions are truly on the horizon, digital brain implants are just the beginning.

The gray areas stretch out from hospital beds into cyberspace. We may not be facing a choice between the One True God and the golden calves of technology. Such theological questions are beyond my ability to answer. But I am certain of one thing—we’re witnessing the rise of potent mechanical gods.

writes about ethnic identity, transhuman hubris, and the eternal spiritual quest. His work has appeared in The Federalist, ColdType, The American Thinker, The National Pulse, This View of Life, The American Spectator, IBCSR: Science on Religion, Disinformation, and elsewhere. Follow him @JOEBOTxyz and

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