Recently, Elon Musk was in the news for buying Twitter. However, he also has another company. I’m not referring to Tesla or SpaceX. It is more revolutionary than either of these.
This second company, Neuralink, is much less well known than the later ventures. The latter company’s goal is to merge artificial intelligence with the human brain. According to Musk, unless humans merge with artificial intelligence, the latter will overtake and control them.
So, for the past six years, Musk’s new company has been engaged in research to connect the human brain to a computer by implanting “neural lace” into it. This is done by surgically implanting a chip (a small transceiver) in the human brain, which contains an extensive network of nanothreads with electrodes at their tips, which are robotically guided to specific areas of the human brain. As a result, a person with such a brain-computer interface would be able to communicate wirelessly with the Internet just by thinking.
The first phase of the project is to enable people with neurological impairments, such as loss of limb motor function, to operate computer technology by thinking only. For example, it may allow prosthetic limbs to operate. The company has apparently already implanted a chip into a monkey’s brain, allowing the primate to play computer games just by thinking.
However, the plot is thickening, as Musk wants to create a “symbiosis with artificial intelligence.” Business Insider. This means there will be a two-way street between computers and humans. In the case of artificial limbs, the technology will also provide sensory feedback.
For example, an amputee cannot operate a prosthesis by thought alone; The technology will also provide sensory and kinesthetic feedback so that one can feel one’s own limbs moving. In the case of one’s brain scanning the Internet, this involves not only converting analog brain circuits to digital circuits (output) and uploading commands to one’s brain, but also vice versa (input); That is, accessing the brain by downloading information from the Internet.
Now, for most of us, the most basic form of privacy that exists is what goes on in our minds. However, if Musk’s technology is deployed to create a two-way “symbiosis” between the Internet and the human brain, it stands to reason that there will no longer be any such privacy. Companies that control internet pipes can have access to your private thoughts; And so do any government agencies such as the National Security Agency (NSA) that, under the current Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) laws, have access to the material flowing through these pipes.
Inferring the latter, your brain, like your computer, can become vulnerable to infection by viruses and malicious content. Imagine downloading false content to your brain—say, a radical conspiracy theory—and storing it in long-term memory so that it becomes part of your permanent working memory. Of course, when your computer gets infected you can refresh your hard drive or get a new computer; But your brain cannot be refreshed (without losing your memory and thus personal identity) or changed so easily.
In the past, protecting your privacy on the Internet was left up to the federal government—Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations and FISA laws, in particular. So, a lot will depend on how active the federal government is in protecting your privacy and this most fundamental area of freedom of thought and expression – what goes on in your own mind.
With strong governments around the world tending to take control, this solution may be part of the problem. Totalitarian governments do not care about freedom of thought or expression and prefer to control these things. Therefore, leaving control of these new technologies to totalitarian governments, or a new world order that tends in this direction, may make the interests envisioned by George Orwell in 1984 seem archaic and bland.
Is it true that artificial intelligence will take over according to Musk? This is the stuff of science fiction films created ad nauseam with this theme. It’s true that over-reliance on artificial intelligence can make us more dependent on them. Now that you rely more and more on Global Positioning System (GPS) devices, how good are your directions? Computers are creating themselves now so it is not impossible that they will eventually be replaced by computers.
But do we need to be one of them to stop them from getting to us? Are there better ways to make human planning necessary, such as laws and developing new technologies that serve humans rather than usurping them?
There is indeed a technical imperative that says, if you can build it, do it. Unfortunately, this absolute mandate is blind to the social problems that may arise from the introduction of such new technologies.
Musk has predicted that he’ll be implanting chips in humans by 2022, and it doesn’t look like he’s there yet. Also, at least initially, the average consumer is likely to resist having chips implanted in their brain—even though he claims the surgery will be as safe as LASIK eye surgery. Yet, many of us now carry around with our Bluetooth sets attached to our ears. It’s not clear how long it can take to get tired of wearing it on the outside of one’s brain, especially when it’s “nerdy” to wear it.
So, is merging the human brain with artificial intelligence really a good idea? It is better to answer this question now that such technology has become a new reality.