Glenn opened Tuesday’s Glenn Beck Program with a simple question: Will the technological revolution we witness in the next decade free us or trap us? In keeping with that theme, Gary Marcus, a professor of psychology at New York University, joined the program to discuss the future of brain implants. Earlier this week, Marcus co-authored an article in the Wall Street Journal that discussed the future and ethics of brain implants, and he continued that conversation with Glenn.

Marcus explained that brain implants today could one day be what cell phones were several decades ago – available only to a selected few. But he believes that could soon change.

From the cochlear implants found in the ears of hear-impaired patients around the world to the retinal implant approved by the FDA just last year, neuroprosthetics are nothing new. Thousands of Parkinson’s patients around the world are treated through a thin electrode that is inserted into the brain through a small opening in the skull, and a wire that runs to a battery pack underneath the skin connects it. The implant sends electrical pulses deep into the brain, activating some of the pathways involved in motor control.


But not all brain implants work in this way, and that’s where future technological advances come into play. Some implants can work to read brain signals – to interpret, for example, the intentions of a paralyzed user. Neuroprosthetic systems may eventually be able to do both – read a user’s desires and then sending the reading directly back to the brain.

The real question isn’t so much whether something like this can be done but how and when. How many advances in material science, battery chemistry, molecular biology, tissue engineering and neuroscience will we need? Marcus explained that the science still has a ways to go, but it is imperative to have the ethical conversations regarding the potential knowledge gap that could begin to exist and who the thoughts and actions of such patients would actually belong to.

Glenn and Marcus dive into those questions and many more in the clip below: