The year is 2029, the supercomputer Skynet is fighting against a human resistance, nearly destroying the very existence of humanity.
The world is not a movie. What innovators alike are hoping to build is not intended to be a world dominated by vile artificial intelligence (ala The Terminator), rather a world where man and machine can co-exist for a higher quality of life. But why is there fear among the world’s brightest that humans may become inferior to our own creations?
Technology And The Rise of Human Stagnation
The human species prides itself on being the most intelligent beings in the known universe. Despite archaic beginnings, humans quickly evolved from nomadic cavemen to tech savants within the span of just 2000 years. But with rapid technological advancements, humans have established lifestyles which rely heavily on our devices. While it would be ignorant to dismiss technology’s great advantages, my growing concern can be summed up in one image from the movie “Wall-E.”
This still captures my fear of what the human race will evolve to. While “Wall-E” is an over-the-top dramatization, the rapid expansion of technology has created “smart” systems where humans are not needed to do much. From Alexa being able to control the entire functionality of a home to Siri being able to order food straight to your door, there has never been an easier time to carry out daily activities. It is the comfort that technology provides which has contributed to human stagnation and more specifically, the stagnation of human intelligence.
Famed astrophysicist Carl Sagan once said, “It is very difficult to evolve by altering the deep fabric of life; any change there is likely to be lethal. But fundamental change can be accomplished by the addition of new systems on top of old ones.” While this quote can be applied in many mediums, the case here with our intelligence problem is simple:
If the exponential growth of our technology continues at the rapid pace it is at, it will become impossible for current humans to co-exist with machines and their superior intellect and capabilities. The answer for human-machine harmony lies in ramping up human intelligence. One possible solution is devices that will connect our brains to computer interfaces.
The Neuralink Complex
“The merge scenario with AI is the one that seems like probably the best.”
“If you can’t beat it, join it.”
These were Elon Musk’s comments when talking about what gives humans the best chance against artificial intelligence.
Neuralink is neurotechnology company founded by Elon Musk and eight others with the “simple” goal of developing ultra-high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect humans and computers.
With a focus in neural lace technology, Neuralink believes they can implant this mesh material in the skull and form a body of electrodes, effectively creating an interface between the brain and a computer. By creating such an interface, the potential is limitless.
Neuroscientists are already using brain-computer interfaces to work towards eradicating paralysis and other medical conditions, but Neuralink’s dream is much grander.
Imagine you have successfully implanted neural lace into your skull, have your brain connected to the internet, and are now faced with one of these scenarios:
- Going to Japan next week and want to have the most immersive experience? The Japanese language as well as the history of Japan can be downloaded into your head and learned in a matter of minutes.
- Have a burning question you need to be answered? You can search for the answer in your head thanks to the internet.
- “Your biological self dies, you can upload into a new unit. Literally.”
- Elon Musk
How groundbreaking connecting your brain to the internet can be is truly fascinating.
But revolution is accompanied by controversy.
Ethics, Privacy, And Hacking
Neuralink and other pioneers in the brain implant space are not looking to put an implant in your head for medical purposes, rather looking to use healthy people for this elective surgery. Immediately, we enter a debate concerning the legality of the procedure and how ethical this implant is. “Who has access to the chips or certain models of chips?” “Who is to say who can download what information?” “If we use brain chips, what discerns us from artificial intelligence?” All valid questions without definitive answers.
Secondly, these brain implants create the matter of regulation and control. Data has become the world’s number one resource and, regardless of your stance on privacy and government surveillance, there will be an endless number of governments, advertisers, insurers and marketing companies looking to tap into our brain’s data to use as they wish.
Simply put, the rapid advancement of technology has helped enable those with malicious intent through various mediums including hacking. We can only begin to imagine what forms hacking would take when individuals have a direct line into the minds of others. Would this be the climax of terrorism as a regime can manipulate our brains? What if someone could remotely hack into the brain and control our very functionality?
Looking To The Future and My Personal Note
The potential for brain-computer interfaces, especially brain chip technology, is revolutionary is all senses of the word. Many are excited, and rightfully so, to work towards solving our human intelligence problem. Conversely, the opposition has reason to be fearful for the drastic change that Neuralink and others want to usher in.
While we do not have the answers to many concerns regarding brain chips, I believe it is crucial to continue research into seeing if the idea is truly feasible. As Elon Musk put it, artificial intelligence is “a fundamental existential risk for human civilization.” We must recognize the rapid rate at which our technology is becoming more sophisticated and find real solutions. Maybe connecting our brains to the internet is not the best solution and the various implications are greater than what humans can handle. But, it is absolutely necessary to ensure we take action to improve our capabilities and not settle for the “smokescreen” of comfort provided by technology. Yes, technologies are created with improving the efficiency of a task in mind, but at what point do we let our technology take full control of our lives?
- There is fear among the world’s brightest that humans may become inferior to our own creations.
- Devices have created too much comfort for humans and have contributed to human stagnation and more specifically, the stagnation of human intelligence.
- If we are to outlast or even co-exist with machines, the answer lies in ramping up human intelligence. One possible solution is devices that will connect our brains to computer interfaces.
- Companies like Neuralink are working to create brain-machine interfaces, specifically neural lace, to connect humans and computers.
- While brain chips may not be our best solution, it is absolutely necessary to ensure we take action to improve our capabilities and not settle for the “smokescreen” of comfort provided by technology.
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