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Our expert voices conversation on "When computers merge with our minds."

When we're awake, the 100 billion intricately connected neurons in our brain are entirely active, receiving, analyzing, and responding to the inputs we're collecting from the world. The idea then of inserting a machine into that complexity in order to enhance or suppress behavior comes with many challenges.

Problem to be solved: How do we pick a target? The brain is a mesh of multiple networks associated with different functions, so you can actually cause impulsivity or depression in patients with Parkinson's because stimulating one network means you can accidentally activate another. Some conditions, like depression, have several possible targets within the brain. Which of the many candidates should be stimulated — and how?

Where to draw the line: Research has shown that stimulating certain brain areas increases memory capabilities and improves learning. Treating disease serves the public — but enhancing our cognitive abilities runs the risk of only serving some. If we could design a brain chip to enhance memory, how would we price it and keep a level playing field?

The other voices in the conversation:

Go deeper

Biden will reverse Trump's attempt to lift COVID related travel restrictions

Photo: Tasos Katopodis via Getty

The incoming Biden administration will reverse President Trump's last-minute order to lift COVID-19 related travel restrictions, Jen Psaki, the incoming White House press secretary, tweeted.

Why it matters: President Trump ordered entry bans lifted for travelers from the U.K., Ireland, Brazil and much of Europe to go into effect Jan. 26, but the Biden administration will "strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19," Jen Psaki said. Biden will be inaugurated on Wednesday, Jan. 20 and Trump will no longer be president by the time the order is set to go into effect.

Dominion sends cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell

Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Dominion Voting Systems on Monday sent a cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell over his spread of misinformation related to the 2020 election.

Why it matters: Trump and several of his allies have pushed false conspiracy theories about the company, leading Dominion to take legal action. It's suing pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell for defamation and $1.3 billion in damages, and a Dominion employee has sued Trump himself, OANN and Newsmax.

Off the Rails

Episode 5: The secret CIA plan

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer, Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 5: Trump vs. Gina — The president becomes increasingly rash and devises a plan to tamper with the nation's intelligence command.

In his final weeks in office, after losing the election to Joe Biden, President Donald Trump embarked on a vengeful exit strategy that included a hasty and ill-thought-out plan to jam up CIA Director Gina Haspel by firing her top deputy and replacing him with a protege of Republican Congressman Devin Nunes.