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The Human Neural Network and AI

Whilst we may be a little way off from the dystopian future set out in the Matrix; sentient machines (AI perhaps) keeping people in a simulated reality (via. Neural Interfaces) for nefarious purposes, the story that The Wachowskis created isn’t really that implausible.

As commercial, military and medical neural research starts to converge, more of us will have an opportunity to become “neurally enhanced”.

Medical Research — The BrainGate program is already undergoing clinical trials. Micro-electrodes implanted into the brain are connected to a computer via. a BCI (Brain Computer Interface). This allows neural signals to be decoded into physical movement. This pioneering research is set to greatly improve quality of life for patients with debilitating neurological and physiological conditions. However; typical BCI are often cumbersome and unwieldy but if we combine that with research coming out of MIT in the form of micro-polymer fibers you can see how BCI will become much more “organic” .

Military Research — In 2015 (yes 2015!) DARPA announced it was working on an “implantable neural interface… (for)…. data-transfer bandwidth between the human brain and digital world”. Dr. Justin Sanchez went on to propose some of their wider ideas and updates at a 2017 Think Digital Conference (#TDC2017) —

Towards the end of the presentation we watch a “subject”, fitted with a neural interface, and his ability to recall a list of words. With “stimulation” (from technology via. the interface) the subjects memory is vastly improved. DARPA were able to artificially manipulate thought through a neural interface, something they term as “Neural Enhancement”.

Commercially — Even more recently, in a now famous Joe Rogan interview, Musk went on to explain that the slowest thing in computer evolution is the human/computer interface and announced the founding of Neuralink — a commercial initiative to develop ultra high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect humans and computers.

Even before this Adam Pantanowitz of WITS University demonstrated connection of a human brain to the internet using electroencephalogram signals.

With all of this amazing research going on I honestly doubt it will be very long before we see viable neural interfaces. There are so many opportunities for this technology. Medically, militarily and commercially. Helping restore peoples cognitive or motor functions. Repairing brain trauma. Militarily (and commercially) by creating neurally enhanced humans. By affecting faster biological to technological knowledge transfer. To quote Musk: “ superhuman cognition”.

Part of me can’t help but wonder though; in tandem to this research is also the development of Artificial Intelligence. Programmatically generated intelligence. At some point will “it” become self-aware? As more of us become “neurally enhanced”, connected to AI driven software, at some point will “it” end up controlling us?

As Musk said: “The merge scenario with AI is the one that seems like probably the best. If you can’t beat it, join it,”