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In 2015 we can rewind the TV, our CCTV footage and, if we wear an action cam, our latest adventure. However if we walk down the street and something happens we didn't quite catch, the annoying fact is that there is no 'real-life' rewind.

Background

In the not-too-distant future anyone who can afford it can have a chip implant under their skull. This allows everyone to access a 24/7, 5 minute delay loop so that anything that happens to you in the last 5 minutes can be played back with sound and vision in your brain. If necessary you can transfer the footage to an external device and download it again later.

Product details

A simple, minor operation places a tiny TotalRewind™ microchip inside your skull and in contact with the surface of your brain (its cortex).

On correctly entering the product code, the chip (which has biological components) starts to grow an outward-spreading network that eventually covers the entire surface of your brain with an ultrafine network of pseudo-bio threads and nodes. Effectively each node is a tiny biocomputer.

As you go about your daily business, these nodes detect the activity on the surface of your brain and continuously upload it to the chip.

The chip itself contains a vast memory array that can store the 2-D information from your cortex as a series of images. At today's level of technology, we can selectively store the past 5 minutes of your visual and auditory cortex. When you wish to play back your experiences, you simply activate the chip which projects the stored images back onto your cortex.

This means that, by temporarily closing your eyes (and blocking your ears) you can experience everything you saw and heard in the previous five minutes -- as though it is really happening!

WARNING - Do not do this while driving or operating machinery! It's best while relaxing in a darkened room however the system will work anywhere.

You may wish to carry blackout eye-masks with you in case you need an instant replay. You can rewind and slo-mo. You can upgrade to the super-IP (image-processing) version. This allows you to zoom and perform image enhancement in real-time (playback mode only). On review, you can decide whether to save the recording to an external device using wireless transmission or, by subscribing to our network, you can do this continuously. Note that if you do not save or store it, the 'footage' gets overwritten in a 5 minute loop.

Question

In scientific terms, how realistic is this proposal? In biological terms, will recording a movie of 2-D images of the cortex and then re-stimulating it with those images result in a playback as described?

What technological hurdles have to be overcome before this is reality? Is it theoretically possible under 2015 technology (even if it would cost billions) or, if not, what specific advances must we make.

What benefits and drawbacks must be considered?

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This question asks for hard science. All answers to this question should be backed up by equations, empirical evidence, scientific papers, other citations, etc. Answers that do not satisfy this requirement might be removed. See the tag description for more information.

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    $\begingroup$ Does the chip record the actual sensory input (nearly unusable video since human visual system is heavily optimized) or is there an actual video camera attached? Or does it record the actual thoughts? $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Oct 19 '15 at 1:31
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    $\begingroup$ I can't imagine this actually being useful in blink-and-you-miss it situations; You might have the recording, but it's a recording in which the camera blinks at the crucial moment or was pointed at the wrong thing. $\endgroup$ – user867 Oct 19 '15 at 7:06
  • $\begingroup$ @VilleNiemi - I've added that information as a note. $\endgroup$ – chasly from UK Oct 19 '15 at 8:32
  • $\begingroup$ @user867 - There is no camera. I've added a note to explain. The information comes directly from your eyes and ears. You are correct in saying that if you blink (or are looking in the wrong direction) then you have missed it. If you want a 360 degree system then simply have a head-mounted fish-eye camera and record and play back in the normal way. $\endgroup$ – chasly from UK Oct 19 '15 at 8:45
  • $\begingroup$ I don't need a chip. I've got an ex-wife who will happily replay for me every conversation we ever had. Now, I'm not convinced she's 100% accurate - in fact I'm positive she isn't - but don't try telling her that! lmao! $\endgroup$ – Michael Broughton Oct 19 '15 at 15:39
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I have tried to think if there has ever been a moment in my life where a five minute review of my actions would have been beneficial. I can't think of one. There have been many times I would have given anything for a five minute do-over, but those are the same moments you probably not want to re-live.

On the other hand, as humans, we already dwell too much in the past, with regrets, could haves, and what ifs. So if I see an inherent danger in such a technology it is that people will use it as an excuse to spend more time reflecting about the past.

Would there be a danger of not being able to snap out of it, and therefore be stuck indefinitely in a 5 minute loop? That would be scary!

Also, would the technology record actual events or would the recording be of the memory created by the event? If the latter the recording could be subject to the perceptions of user. If the first it would be interesting to see how perception and reality would match up.

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    $\begingroup$ Actually I can think of several. For example arguing with someone as to what was actually said, or storing the record of what happened leading up to a motor vehicle accident, etc. In fact evidence for pretty much any legal proceedings. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Oct 19 '15 at 13:32
  • $\begingroup$ In the original question saving was not an option @TimB. $\endgroup$ – Gabe Ruiz Oct 19 '15 at 21:58
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I would think this would largely depend on each individual. Some might be able to use it beneficially (i.e. as a tool of self-improvement, to review things that have just happened, assess them, and attempt to learn from their mistakes), some might use it as a memory aid (such as rewinding to catch a name or a phone number they might have missed or forgotten), and others might, as Gabe Ruiz says, use it to dwell more on the past. This does not necessarily have to be a bad thing -- imagine, say, a world where a dying person could have all of their best moments played back to them to calm them as they passed, or (if there is an ability to send these videos to other people's phones/tablets through email or texting) to see yourself through someone else's eyes.

But I think a potential danger in this would be a decreased capacity to move beyond certain events -- the adage 'time heals all wounds' might become a little less relevant if all of those wounds are easily accessible on a smartphone or tablet, able to be played over and over again. This could lead to a surge in mental health issues -- depression, anxiety, etc. It could also lead to isolation from others if people focused more on their memories and less on going out and experiencing the world.

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In order to record video and audio it would need to be calibrated for each person and would need to intercept quite close to the ears and eyes, most likely to the relevant nerves themselves. This is because the human brain does a lot of visual processing which is not actually what you want if you just want a recording of events. This would also allow you to replay the recording by triggering the appropriate signals.

There would be no need to close your eyes though, the signal could just be super imposed or over-written by the recording.

So in other words, doing it be connecting to the cortex would be very hard or impossible. By connecting to the optical and auditory nerves though it is theoretically possible.

We couldn't do it with todays technology, however neural interfacing and similar technology is progressing fast.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brain%E2%80%93computer_interface

For example:

In 2002, Jens Naumann, also blinded in adulthood, became the first in a series of 16 paying patients to receive Dobelle’s second generation implant, marking one of the earliest commercial uses of BCIs. The second generation device used a more sophisticated implant enabling better mapping of phosphenes into coherent vision. Phosphenes are spread out across the visual field in what researchers call "the starry-night effect". Immediately after his implant, Jens was able to use his imperfectly restored vision to drive an automobile slowly around the parking area of the research institute.[29] Unfortunately, Dobelle died in 2004[30] before his processes and developments were documented. Subsequently, when Mr. Naumann and the other patients in the program began having problems with their vision, there was no relief and they eventually lost their "sight" again.

Realistically I would expect that over the next ten to twenty years such implants will start to become more and more common, initially used to treat disabilities and illness.

Once they are tested and in regular use for medical reasons it will start to become more and more feasible to use them for more and more minor usages.

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Crime fighting (like those cameras setups in London). Lack of privacy (someone's gonna hack your memories). I don't really have time right now to elaborate but yeah, we'll have some serious changes.

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While I definitely think this technology would have its uses, I'm not so sure it would actually be able to deliver.

For one thing, today we don't really understand how the brain works. We can get sort of a basic idea, but the idea of copying our perceptions, then playing them back later is far beyond our wildest dreams with the technology we have today.

I recall a study that was able to match humans' perceptions of a movie at each frame with random videos pulled from Youtube, and while the end result showed promise, it really probably wasn't worth the effort. They essentially had to record the subject's reactions to a wide variety of stimuli in order to have something to match their experiences to; there was no 'that neuron was firing, so that means they saw green in the top left corner' kind of thing, rather it was 'their brain is responding to this stimulus in a similar way as to how it responded to that other stimulus'. Thus, all that could be built to reconstruct the experience was a mashup of disconnected images. Therefore, in terms of an external playback, I don't think it's going to happen any time soon, at least not with enough clarity for zoom-ins or slo-mo.

As for an internal playback, or getting the brain to 'relive' the experience, aside from the massive amount of precision needed, I also don't think you'd ever get the desired result. Think of it this way: if you're reliving a memory of not paying attention in class, you're not going to be able to pay attention the second time. For one thing, your eyes and ears are tuned to whatever you were paying attention to, while everything else was being tuned out (this is also a problem with the external approach described above). Aside from that, I think it would be hard to keep your brain from thinking the memories, rather than just experiencing them. Thus, every time you relive the moment, you'll notice the exact same things, and find the exact same things worthy or not worthy of remembering. It might still help to re-remember what happened, but you're not going to get any more clarity from a recent event by experiencing it a second time.

I wish I had some references, at least for that study I remember, but I have no idea where I read/heard about it. This technology wouldn't even help me in this scenario, because I wouldn't know where to look.

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