How Brain Implants are Bad News for Society

Has tech gone too far?

For years, the thought of having tiny computers in our brains was a matter only of science fiction — until Elon Musk, the electric car-making, multi-million-dollar business maintaining, mad inventor decided to turn it into science fact. Neuralink, Musk’s latest venture into improving our lives, intends to implants a sort of “neural lace” — a, “machine interface woven into the brain,” [1] to help, “store and retrieve memories,” in an effort to help people who can’t form long-term memories do just that. As awesome as that sounds, it’s much more problematic than you think.

Is it meant to be “Neura-link” or “Neural-ink”?

One of the main debate points regarding brain implants is the potential for intelligence-enhancing features. Even though the implants’ intentions are to help those in need of assistance with their memories, as the referred article puts it, “If the idea worked, there seems little reason why those without damage should not and would not want something similar,” which opens up opportunities for cerebrum supplements such as downloadable languages to be made accessible to the masses. Putting chips in our brains will only exaggerate the class divide as there’s a very good chance that those intelligence enhancements will cost a hell of a lot of money, meaning that the richer you are, the more intelligent you are — people will literally be able to buy their intellect. Individuals with more wealth will be able to do better at school, get better jobs more quickly, and do much better at those jobs, or, in other words, people with more wealth do better in life. And as the price of intelligence rises and become more complicated (think of all the extra attachments you have to get for a device like your phone or your laptop), the class divide will become more and more exaggerated. The hierarchy will become more defined in a society in a society that is trying to become more liberal — and if you don’t have that wealth, you’re at an immediate disadvantage that makes it impossible to achieve social mobility.

Furthermore, there are major security concerns about brain implants. The Economist published an article, “The myth of cyber-security” (08/04/2017)[2], which detailed how insecure our security systems are, saying, “The arrival of the ‘Internet of Things’ will see computers baked into everything from road signs and MRI scanners to prosthetics and insulin pumps,” “the average program has 14 separate vulnerabilities,” and, “Computers will never be secure.” If our brains are added to the Internet of Things — if we ourselves become computers — we are exposing ourselves to all of those weaknesses.

Imagine brain hacking. Identity fraud takes on a whole new meaning when fraudsters have direct access to your literal brain. If we can’t secure a metal brick with a screen against threats, we simply cannot allow ourselves to add ourselves to our list of security concerns.

I’m all for innovation in technology, but Mr Musk is going to have to come up with a prodigy of a protection system to safeguard ourselves against risks before we put chips in our brains.

Brain implants have so much potential: you could talk to people all over the world by downloading a language, add an item to your shopping list by simply thinking of it, and never forget why you walked into a room — just look at your memory history! Even so, brain implants will have a very slim chance of not destroying society as we know it, what with looming threats of classism and brain criminals. If we want this to work, we’re going to have to tread very carefully or we’ll end up risking all of our futures.

[1] The Economist, 01/04/2017: “We can remember it for you wholesale”

[2] The Economist, 08/04/2017: “The myth of cyber-security”