The concept is not a new one since we have seen it in sci-fi movies before, like “Transcendence” starring Johnny Depp or “Ghost in the shell” with Scarlett Johansson among others, but the actual implementation of the microchipped and augmented human brain may be just months away. This is thanks to the funding of futurist billionaire Elon Musk and a company called Neuralink.
Merging the brain with your device
In a launch just last month Musk presented the Neuralink project and team members to an audience, and called for specialists in certain relevant fields who might be able to contribute, to become involved in the project, which is still in the research and development phase. The plan is to insert a tiny chip in the brain which is connected to 1000 wires each measuring a tenth the width of a human hair. This chip is then linked via bluetooth to a small computer worn just behind the ear, and then to a smartphone, mouse or laptop.
The goal is for you to be able to operate your computer device via thought alone, thus speeding up the process by orders of magnitude not yet imagined by us two-fingered typists on our clunky old keyboards.
The birth of transhumanism
The concept is not entirely new, as a similar product is already being successfully used for the treatment of brain disorders like Parkinsons Disease. This implant however, when FDA approved, will be 1000 times more efficient, based on not one but up to ten chip implants with 1000 electrodes each. The plan is to also market the chip as something which can facilitate the use of a laptop by a quadriplegic, for example, or someone paralysed due to spinal injury.
Musk describes the Neuralink as a third layer of the brain, to augment the limbic system or primal/emotional base, as well as the cortex used for thinking and planning.
The tertiary or digital super-intelligence layer is already there, in the form of our phone or laptop and the Neuralink will simply improve it by overcoming the interface constraints like typing, by speeding up the input and, more so, the output by bypassing the hands and going straight to an App which links you to your device.
Will we be the pets of AI?
Musk has been obliged to tone down his AI-phobic rhetoric, for which he is well known, by saying that with the rapid advances, humans will either have to merge with AI or become irrelevant.
“All this will occur quite slowly....It’s not going to be like suddenly Neuralink will have this incredible neural aid and start taking over people’s brains. It will take a long time (sniggers to himself) and you will see it coming.”
You’ve got to wonder about his rather macabre sense of humor here, joking about the obvious concerns we all have regarding the hijacking of our brains via such neural implants. Considering the actual threads are so small, only a tenth the size of a hair tip, a robot had to be engineered that will be used by a neurosurgeon to implant the entire device through a 2mm hole drilled through the skull. Each thread is implanted very precisely, so as to bypass any blood vessels in the brain and the hole is plugged by the device, with the opening in the skin glued up on completion.
No stitches or hospital are required for the operation which will be over in a few hours under local anesthetic.
Surrendering to the inevitable takeover
In this way Musk believes we will secure humanity’s future in relation to AI, staving off irrelevance and obsolescence presumably, in a future that looks decidedly more and more transhuman by the day. FDA approval may be slow to obtain apparently, though Musk wants to have a working product in someone’s skull by the end of 2020. This full brain-machine interface will be our way of achieving symbiosis with AI, though it’s not mandatory Musk insisted, even though he thinks it is crucial, unless we want to be left behind. It all depends on high bandwidth interface.
In Musk’s most benign vision of the future, we will at best only be able to go along for the ride as AI takes over the show, and our hope lies in simply merging with it. The idea of entrusting our brain data to giant corporations does not exactly inspire everyone though. With the tech industry increasingly coming under scrutiny over how it handles our data, it’s not surprising that a brain chip is seen with some reserve.
How can we trust our entire brain contents to anyone else, what to speak of the potential to trigger our brains via some sort of electric stimulus. We could become a bunch of Manchurian Candidates (for those who saw the movie), ready to be triggered by the controllers at a whim, only to wake up and see that we have enacted some ghastly deed somewhere.
Will they be reading our minds?
Online privacy could be the least of our worries after this. Not only deep state actors but also hackers could reach a whole new level of sophistication whenever there is computer tech to be hacked, and our brains might just be the next field of operation, in more ways than one. This appears to be the future of brain-machine interface in the making, and there will be curious and wary observers on both sides of the AI spectrum, either applauding the new advances in medical breakthrough, or ringing alarm bells to warn the future generations of the day the machines took over the minds of men while they simply sat back and watched it happen behind their very eyes.
What’s your opinion of neural implants to merge our minds with our devices?
Do you think it will enhance and speed up our activity exponentially, or do you see it as a way to control us and turn us into robots?
Leave your opinions in the comments below.