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    The Drug Lords of Tomorrow Will Be Biohackers

    Written by Zoltan Istvan

    Through various sources—mainly transhumanist biohacker friends—I've been hearing about how some drug traffickers might be taking an interest in cranial implant technology.

    If scientists can get a brain implant to give neural stimuli that affects our perspectives, moods, and behaviors, then the future of drugs could be totally different than what it is now. In fact, in such a future, drug creation would become the domain of engineers and coders. This could become the next major frontier of the so-called drug market.

    About half a million people already have chips connected to their brains. Most of these are cochlear implants to aid against deafness, but some are also deep brain stimulation (DBS) types, sometimes used for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy.

    Generally speaking, DBS cranial implants work by firing electrical impulses via electrodes into certain regions of the brain. In the case of epileptic patients, they help control seizures.

    But improving forms of brain implants may use more EEG technology—a part of the brain-computer interface field—where they can distribute brain waves over a certain portion of the brain. If this portion is one that affects mood—thought to be determined mostly by the amygdala—maybe they’ll be able to give us a real high.

    Thync is already an external device claiming to work something like this. Only out this year, wearers have been reporting some success with the device, which can give you a quick electronic pick-up or help you achieve inner calm. And the gadget looks cool too.

    One major challenge with cranial implant highs is hacking

    Of course the holy grail of brain implants would be the sex chip. A physician has experimented with this before, working on directly stimulating the erogenous zones of the brain. The researcher was reported to be seeking investments to make the implant commercially affordable.

    If a wealthy drug lord were to get this type of technology and further develop it, they might sell time slots of stimulation to people who received the implants. For example, you might use your smartphone to purchase an hour of sexual ecstasy.

    Of course, this might also be accomplished simply by a brainwave headset, but I think it’s the chip implant will really take off. After all, if you’re at work or at home with your spouse, you might not want them to know you’re walking around with a digital high all day or being sexually stimulated. So the privacy of implants may make headsets obsolete someday.

    A big benefit of implants too might be how it deals with addicts. Perhaps if a user has addiction problems, the chip could be used to wean themselves of the drug, or only allow certain amounts—ones that never allow the user to miss work, or become violent, or anything that disrupts one’s lifestyle too much.

    Fundamentally, the reason implants will probably be the “drug” of choice over plant or chemical substances is because of this type of possible perfect control. One could program it so chips could never overdose people—whereas a problem people always have with drugs is quality. People never really know what they’re getting until after they’ve taken it—and then they can’t stop it. With plants or something made in an illegal laboratory like LSD, it’s always a crapshoot to know what you’re getting, the quality of it, and especially where it came from. With chips and downloads, there would always be a digital trail and signal to follow.

    One major challenge with cranial implant highs is hacking. How can you avoid hackers messing with programming? A bad trip could be really bad. But here again, perhaps a foolproof program could make it so a chip could never harm an individual, and would shut down automatically and immediately if it ever did. And of course users might be able to control their implant stimuli by their smartphones or other devices.

    Of course, such dangers will be the focus of big government too. Probably like many recreational drugs, the most important question is whether government would allow brain implants for recreational uses at all. However, if they don’t, and brain implant technology keeps developing, maybe in a few decades the War on Drugs will soon involve a War on Implants.

    I've tried most every drug I know—and cautiously support legalization of all drugs—and I would enjoy having the freedom to experiment with brain chips and the kind of new experiences they might offer.

    Naturally, illegal drug suppliers will be interested in this coming transhumanist field of implants and direct brain stimuli—and may play a big part in it, especially if government outlaws it as dangerous (which they probably will, at least at first). However the future of cranial implants unfolds, I hope the public will welcome new experiences through technology that safely allow us to expand our minds.

    Zoltan Istvan is a futurist and the US Presidential candidate of the Transhumanist Party. He writes an occasional column for Motherboard where he ruminates on the future beyond human ability.

    Lit Up is a series about heightening—and dulling—our sense of perception. Follow along here.