Posted in Technology on 18 Sep, 2018
Imagine a human brain hardwired to connect with a computer. Does it excite you? Does it terrify you?
We’ve already explored this idea elaborately in movies, haven’t we? Consider the likes of The Terminal Man (1974), The Matrix (1999), or the very recent Ghost in the Shell (2017) and MindGamers (2017). They all had plotlines centered around the intriguing concept of a functional ‘cyberbrain’ and the dire consequences that follow. Of course, reel isn’t real, ergo the triviality.
However, let’s not forget we are rapidly heading toward a robot revolution where the line between man and machine is most likely to get blurred out for good. Also, with business magnate Elon Musk announcing the arrival of a new Neuralink product on the Joe Rogan podcast (ignore the weed and whiskey), there’s every possibility we’d end up superhumans someday in the near future.
A vision toward the merger of artificial and biological intelligence undoubtedly piques interest. But, it also brings with it the element of fear. Impressive as it may seem, a mind-machine interface (MMI) contains within it all the possibilities of going awry.
It’s a direct neural interface or communication pathway that hooks up an artificially augmented brain to an external computing device. Also known as brain-computer interface, MMI enables the bidirectional flow of information, which marks it different from neuromodulation.
The technology seems to have stepped straight out of a Sci-Fi. With Musk dwelling forever on futurism and hell-bent on turning seemingly impossible fantasies into reality one after another, AI has surely progressed a step ahead.
His Neuralink runs along the lines of novelist Iain M. Banks’ ‘neural lace,’ which the latter describes in his science fiction novel Look to Windward as an implantable, ultra-thin mesh that can be injected right into the skull to make the brain more intelligent.
In the book, the neural lace forms a cluster of electrodes that can keep brain activities under surveillance. Originally rolled up inside a tiny needle, the mesh detaches from it once it’s placed inside the skull. It then unfolds and spans the brain.
The scariest part is this neural lace gradually becomes a part of the brain, moving as it moves, growing as it grows. It turns into an interface that allows the organ to wirelessly connect and communicate with computing machines, uploading and downloading ‘thoughts’ at its will. It still is less frightening because it’s not real yet. But, who knows, the day isn’t far when it could just be!
It’s about time we humans realize our increasing dependence on technology. Could this be a wakeup call? Could this be another tech-borne Frankenstein? A source of awe and fright? Let’s find out.
Since this technology is going to up the way our brain functions, it should definitely increase our learning potential and memorizing skills. It is rumored to be able to ease our access to educational software, helping us upload and download what we think and know.
Now, imagine an entire class with Neuralink-like chips implanted in their brains. These guys would process information way faster. They would read, understand and remember chapters at the speed of light, perhaps covering the entire syllabus even before the semester begins. They would carry all study material with them and have access to it whenever wherever.
As a consequence, teaching might become an obsolete occupation. Who needs teachers when learning is this easy? Since all data would be processes online inside the brain, computer devices and smartphones might fall into disuse. Further, the concept of conducting examinations might just go out of date and closed-book tests won’t be effective anymore.
On the other hand, a new kind of profession could arise where people with information fed into their brains could train those who still haven’t had the implant. The former with the minimum qualification of a functioning brain could offer ‘mind hours’ on lease to individuals and organization.
The disadvantage here is we would no longer be able to ascertain if a person is truly intelligent or if he has the inherent ability to remember things. Everybody would know everything. Everyone would be a living Google. Most of all, the biological brain would be used less and might eventually degenerate.
Enhanced cognitive and memorizing skills would mean you’d own an entire digital library of crystal clear memories. The brighter side of this is it could be a groundbreaking treatment for life-altering neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, which directly affect a person’s memory and brain functions.
However, the technology might backfire in case of people who suffer from hyperthymesia or carry traumatic memories. Such people will not just recall bitter experiences and worse times but live them as if they were real. Coping with stress and anxiety might become next to impossible for them and that would definitely be like living a curse.
Millennialism finds its roots in a ‘Generation Me’ which is progressively narcissist. Such self-centeredness has been further fuelled by a rise of smartphones that open the door to celebrating individualism. Self-promotion on social media and elsewhere has now been mainstreamed.
Everyone seems to be in their own virtual world – a world they love to keep scrolling within the few inches of a rectangular screen, never moving out into the real world. Qualities like empathy and compassion are fast dying down and quieted by nonchalance about almost everything. And this is a scenario of the present times where concepts like Neuralink and cyberbrain are yet to bloom.
Now, imagine everyone with an implanted chip. Because the MMI technology surpasses the functions of a smartphone, people will do away with their devices and resort to their brand new ‘Brainphones’ 24/7. With an entire world inside the reinforced brain, there wouldn’t be the need to connect with the sensate world anymore. People will be living an Internet life. Asociality will prevail. Narcissism will be at its peak.
Proponents of Neurotheology believe the human brain is wired for religion. Select regions of the brain called ‘God Spots’ are programmed to control the religion and spiritual experiences which we perceive. They claim this is also the reason why belief in God and the supernatural is a universal feature prevalent throughout history across borders, cultures and people.
If this is true, a chip implant might have an effect on the God Spots as well; good or bad, we’re not sure. It could turn us into an atheist or strengthen our belief in God or do nothing at all.
Because MMI is supposed to better the way we think, it could fill our minds with the urge to rationally dissect everything we know, leading us to question the very existence of God to a point where it turns offensive. Alternatively, the reverse might happen and we could end up accepting religion as it is.
Ever wondered how Amazon suggests exactly those book you’d love reading anyway? Or how a certain website shows ads for products or services you googled a while ago? Or how Facebook comes up with ads for the best wedding planners in your locality as soon as you update you’re in a relationship?
People who sell stuff online make it a point to study consumer behavior so they can design and present targeted advertisements accordingly. Their job goes beyond catching the wave to know what the general masses want or understand individual customer psychologies. When online, they keep a track of your browsing history, cookies, and personal profiles. Based on their assumptions, they create what we call ‘intuitive ads.’ And you see them popping up everywhere without ever realizing.
Can you imagine a scenario in which product marketers, sellers, insurers and service providers incessantly throng your brain to sell you stuff? And why just advertisers, even the government and law officials could be after you in search of every single detail your biological core can provide.
What’s scary is the possibility that one fine day all this could be normalized. Getting the chip implanted at birth could become a mandate. And we definitely don’t want to look forward to a future exerts an exasperating political and social control on us and robs us of our privacy.
Mind-Machine Interface is just the tip of the iceberg. Because there’s no limit to knowledge and learning, technology will keep on evolving at its own rapid pace, bringing in newer inventions with more bewildering concepts.
How you let it affect you is absolutely up to you. You could choose to submit yourself to it and let it entirely consume you or learn to leverage it as a learning tool without being vulnerable.
What would you choose? Let us know in the comments section below.
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