The Implications of Neuralink
TL;DR — Google will be fine. Apple, not so much.
At Hardbound, we make illustrated stories about the best books in business, history, and science. Every now and then we find non-book content that’s so amazing we make a story about it anyway. Right now, we’re working on an adaptation of Wait But Why’s masterful post explaining all things Neuralink. Head over to Hardbound.co and subscribe for all our stories.
In crafting and illustrating this story, we couldn’t stop asking one question.
How will our favorite tech companies fare in a world where every tech-savvy consumer has a Neuralink “wizard cap?”
Lots of people use funny acronyms when talking about the top technology companies. FAMGA, FAANG, GAFA, MAGS.
They’re useful constructs some of the time, but I find that they’re most useful as quick filters to spot unqualified, sweeping generalizations. It works like this:
- Find the acronym
- Discount what immediately proceeds the acronym.
- Unfollow the speaker on twitter.
Here’s an example: My name is Max Rehkopf and I think the FAMGA acronym will lose two letters in the next twenty years thanks to one company: Neuralink.
Link to unfollow me here
Now, let’s take a moment and consider the implications that Neural Lace technology will have on each of the companies comprising the acronym that will not be named.
If you’ve already read the Wait But Why post, you can skip this section and head straight to the predictions.
What is Neuralink?
Neuralink is a new venture by all-hail-Elon that aims to create a high-bandwidth brain-machine interface, or BMI. BMIs act as the interface between one’s brain and a computer, and have been in development for many years now. Elon aims to do for the BMI industry as he’s doing for the aerospace and electric car industries: Creating innovations in technology that ignite the market and bring world-advancing technologies into being far faster than originally thought possible.
The promise of Neuralink is that you and I, in the next 30 years, will be able to interact with a computer, and the AI that runs it, without ever touching the thing or being in the same room.
With brain-power alone we will execute commands, send and receive messages, view content, and unfollow people on Twitter.
The main reason this will be so disastrous for some of the top technology companies is because we will no longer have to touch or talk to the computers we use. Essentially, the interfaces we’re so glued to today will evaporate. So many of the top technology companies in the world are interface companies. These are the companies that will either evolve or die.
Most everything in this article arose thanks to our friends at Wait But Why. Their masterful post on Neuralink and the Brain opened my eyes to an insane and magical future. Let’s make some sweeping generalizations:
At first glance, Google’s Android business looks ripe for disruption by Neuralink. Without the need for touchscreens and physical devices, this decline seems imminent. However, that’s not really what the Android business is. Android is an operating system that makes money off advertisements shown on devices and app downloads in the Google Play store.
While the devices will die off, the best operating systems will live on. Engineers at Google will race to adapt Android, Chrome, and all things search and advertising to the new Neuralink interface. As long as they can make this jump, Google will be fine.
In fact, Google might prosper.
The Neuralink interface is designed to let your brain access the AI systems currently being built by top technology companies around the world. If AI becomes like search or social, one company will own the space, and there’s a good chance that will be Google. Google’s Deep Mind group is well-regarded as the brightest and the best, and using Deep Mind through my Neuralink sounds just about right.
Facebook seems to know that change is coming, quick. Their investments in AI and VR show the company’s fear that the way we share with the world is plastic, and changing fast. Facebook’s engineers will try and pull a Google, port over their platform, and will be mostly successful. You can imagine the Facebook integration being one of the first that people would utilize, but not for long.
Facebook’s core business relies on getting lots of eyeballs on a social feed that advertisers can pay to access. In a Neuralink world, scrolling a social feed would be unnecessary. You’d simply think about your friends, and their latest happening would be beamed to your brain. Facebook’s challenge will be to adapt it’s other businesses into a native Neuralink format.
One of the things we learned from Wait but Why is that one to one communication is going to be awesome. Human to human sharing and collaboration is going to explode. It will feel natural, be instantaneous, and addictive. Imagine c0-authoring a thought. Facebook is positioned well to make Messenger and WhatsApp the go-to platforms for brain to brain communication.
If Facebook can pull that off, the acronyms of the future will likely wear a big blue F.
Microsoft is in a tricky situation. Like Google, they are both a device and an operating system company. Unlike Google however, if Microsoft’s PC and Surface businesses went to zero, they would die. Similar to search and advertising, Microsoft is supported by the Office business, but think about those products: Word, Excel, Powerpoint. Writing, computation, organization, and presentation. In a Neuralink world, the nature of these problems changes so fundamentally that Microsoft is at risk of disappearing along with them.
With my Neuralink cap on, I no longer write. I have the answers to math problems as soon as I think of them and I have powerful databases running in my brain that I don’t ever see. I share my findings with my peers by just willing it. I definitely don’t own a PC or pay for Microsoft office.
These are the reasons that the acronym that will not be named will be one M shorter by the time Neuralink is up and running.
The future of Netflix is fascinating. One of the insanely mind-bending ideas is that you could download books and recall facts without ever reading them. Let’s imagine this is true for video content as well. That has huge implications for Netflix.
At first, Netflix would prosper. As a technology-forward and exhaustive platform for video content, millions of Neuralink users would download their favorite shows and enjoy comprehensive understanding of every story.
Unfortunately, that moment of excitement is also the death knell of movies and TV as we know them. Imagine what the world looks like when you and everyone you know knows everything there is to know and interpret about a piece of art. Would you ever actually watch it? What does the conversation become? How engaging can a list of happenings and facts really be? Unfortunately, the democratization of facts and information could lead to the death of art and artistic interpretation.
So much of what makes Netflix great, like visual storytelling and suspense, will be lost on the download-it-all generation.
I’ve been putting this one off on purpose. It’s the hardest one. How can I really say that a device company that I’ve been loyal to for my entire adult life will die off with one new technology innovation? That, however, is how I’m thinking and myself and the people like me are the reason why. Apple fanboys rant and rave about why they use Apple products over Microsoft and Android. What’s the main reason? I can see you mouthing the words “user interface.” Apple fanboys are so because Apple products are easy and intuitive to use.
Bad news for Apple — nothing will be easier and more intuitive to use than Neuralink.
For the same reasons that Apple was once the most profitable company on earth, Apple will wither and die. Apple does have a very profitable app store and some of the smartest people on earth. Unfortunately their strengths are their biggest weaknesses. Apple’s app store relies on the proliferation of Apple devices and the tendency of them to be owned by wealthy people. The people that make Apple great make devices, the very interfaces that Neuralink will nuke. Finally, incremental improvements will not survive the next digital revolution. The way Apple currently does business will be its downfall. Our favorite letter in the acronym just dropped off.
Amazon will crush it in the Neuralink age. PCs and smartphones may go to zero but we’ll still need everything else, and we’ll want it at the blink of an eye. Ordering product via Neural Lace technology will be seamless and fun. Amazon’s drone, plane, and truck infrastructure is already the best in the world and will continue to improve.
Just imagine pulling the last paper towel off the roll, thinking about how you need more, and them being airdropped on your front porch moments later.
Amazon will have one challenge: their book and Kindle businesses.
Books, like movies, will become a thing of the past. The massive volume and value of Amazon’s library will go to zero as the democratization of information spreads. Amazon will likely have to batch billions of dollars of potential book revenue into downloadable packs that everyone can afford.
If they can’t offer this, people will demand the information from their AI provider, who will buy it even cheaper or download it from somewhere else. Again we see that whoever owns AI will 0wn the Neuralink world. Imagine that.
Our favorite acronyms will replace one N with another, and lose an A and M. Facebook, Amazon, Neuralink, and Google will fight tooth and nail for what’s left. Quite fitting for our new acronym, FANG.
Call to action:
What are your predictions for Neuralink? Comment them below and we’ll share our favorite predictions in an email blast for our Neuralink story later this week. Subscribe for access to all of our stories!