Amongst his other amazing projects, Elon Musk wants to help hook us up to our brains.
According to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal, he is backing an operation called Neuralink, which is experimenting with putting electrodes in our brains to enhance their function. The benefits for a whole variety of conditions are obvious, but it poses a question:
Is this venture into brain technology the start of the next space race?
We have conquered many parts of our exterior world, but with lightening fast improvements in A.I. technology, will human brains now be in a race to keep up with their robot A.I. cousins? This “neural lace” technology has so many real-world applications, and it could eventually mean that an entirely different “class” of people emerge, but I would just like to ask the question whether it would be entirely healthy to have intimate access to every single thought that has ever crossed our mind?
If the technology advanced to this stage, would we want a Big Data style archive of our life?
Most of us have enough trouble remembering what we need to do from day to day, and few of us get enough sleep to process the thoughts from the day before. If we had an inbuilt hard drive to categorise and store these memories, would we really want immediate access on a whim?
If you could go back to how you felt that day when you scored your first goal for the school football team, had your first kiss or got your first promotion, what would be the point of striving for anything in the present? The point about past memories is that they fade over time and that is why we strive to make new memories. I’m not sure that messing with our brains (too much) is a very healthy idea.
There is one caveat here – for conditions such as Autism, Depression, Alzheimer’s, Dementia and many others, these developments could hugely enhance the lives of millions. Downloads of data in these cases could return a standard of life that was irrevocably lost, and I sense that this is what Musk is striving for. Nonetheless, with great power comes great responsibility, and the technology could so easily be made the plaything of the rich and powerful. Our society is lazy enough, but if this were to reach the mainstream, a dangerous stagnation could set in.
Of course, maybe I am being a little too negative. We currently only use a tiny percentage of our brains at any one time, and maybe they could handle this new “evolutionary” step with ease? Who knows, but I for one would be wary of the “Big Data” that is lurking inside my head. There is a lot of stuff that I would love to “process” again, but there is also a lot of stuff that I would rather forget.
Then there is the question of whether someone’s brain could be hacked….
The future is starting to pose some interesting questions, that is for sure.