Elon Musk has no patience with ordinary ideas. Considered by some as the biggest risk taker on the planet, Musk pushes the envelope beyond all ordinary vestiges of common sense to come up with ideas that may or may not work — but their very conception is changing the world on a day-to-day basis. His latest idea, Neuralink, is creating an implantable micro transmitter that will be painlessly sited in the human brain to link up with the internet. It may sound like the wildest science fiction, but it’s only a matter of time before this breakthrough concept is viable.
Should we be more worried than hopeful about this epoch-making research?
An article in Scientific American states unequivocally that the Neuralink technology means that a human being is soon going to be able to be biologically linked to the internet — with no further need for writing or speech. This is exciting, but:
What are the infection risks of having the outpatient surgery performed, and who will be performing this — doctors, nurses, or some other type of medical personnel — or will this be like tattoo parlours, completely unregulated?
Who controls the interface — the implant or the carrier provider, or some government agency?
What’s to prevent hackers and phishers and other black hats from interfering and/or damaging the internet connection and sensitive data?
If this thing catches on, will everyone have to get an implant whether they want to or not in order to keep using the internet?
What happens to work performance when workers have a 24/7 internet link in their head? According to immigration attorney Joshua L. Goldstein, “the important questions being raised in conjunction with work performance, and the age this should be allowed to happen seem to be the most critical in the discussion on this new tech.”
Who’s going to finance the final phase of research in this field to make it safe and cost effective?
Just how will this impact social media?
What will such technology do to our sense of self and will our normal communication skills begin to atrophy once it’s implemented?
This is just the tip of the iceberg, when it comes to questions about what Neuralink and its counterparts are going to do to our daily lives!
Although Neuralink is still in the early stages of conception and design, it does not lack for angel investors and even hedge funds just slavering to get a piece of the action. Musk is a name to conjure with in the world of technology and high finance — when he backs something, there is never a lack of others willing to put their money where his dreams are. I would personally be tempted to sell my Ferrari to fund a stock purchase of Neuralink if it ever goes public. The buzz is already tremendous for the tentative uses of this technology in the medical world — helping victims of diseases like Parkinson’s to continue to interact fully with the outside world even when their physical bodies begin to degenerate. Musk is the first to admit that our understanding of the human brain is far from complete, and that a neural computer link is going to have far reaching consequences for the human brain — in ways that cannot even be imagined yet. Yet the dream of expanding our limited human understanding and brain function with an AI supplement is too tempting to restrict further research and implementation.
The work and research is beginning to gain momentum in this exciting technology. Experts now predict that a viable brain-to-internet interface should be ready to market within the next twenty years — or even sooner. Countries like Russia and China are not sharing their discoveries in the field of cyber-neurotransmitting, so they may have some extraordinary surprises that will advance the whole field whenever they choose to reveal it.
Let’s just hope that neuroethics will keep pace with neurotechnology.