Neuralink, a start-up funded by Elon Musk, is developing neural laces. A neural lace is a device which allows for direct connection between a human brain and a computer. This device has the potential to become the most privacy invasive technology of our time. On the other hand, Elon musk is hardening his stance on the destructive potential of AI. As a neural lace would increase human exposure to AI, I think Elon Musk’s investments in Neuralink are quite hypocrite.
For those who have not read up on this: a neural lace is a very tiny polymer mesh which can be injected via the arterial system. As blood flows to the brain, the mesh will spread out and melt into the tissue of the brain. It is also called a Brain Computer Interface (BCI), as it allows computer to connect directly with our brains. Sounds like some epic Sci-fi shit, right?
The possibilities of a Neural lace are endless. Elon Musk himself declared the following as short term opportunities of neural laces:
In Musk’s tweet from 2016, he hints on symbiosis which is an integrated relationship between humans and machines. Therefore, I came up with a short list of possibilities when humans learn to interact with their AI counterpart:
You, a smart human being, might be hesitant of this new technology, however these commercials really get to you:
“Did you just go from being the best student of your class to the only one not wearing a neural lace? Were you always dreaming of a Silicon Valley dream job? Get the new Neural-Licious 3000 and make your dreams come true.”
You eventually get one, what could go wrong, right?
Once again humanity has failed to think things through. You might see your neural lace as a direct connection between you and your dedicated AI. This might give you a feeling of protection: “My AI will never hurt me” (try to speak that out loud using a really annoying American accent). It might have a nice name, tailored specially for you to call, but there will be no such thing as a dedicated AI.
We will all be connected to one super monster. As the amount of interfaces enlarges, this monster will learn to spot unsupervised relationships in data, growing more intelligent quickly. It will at some point be able to:
Spy on you: It will tab your ears, sight, movements, behavior, feelings and potentially much more. It will generate the most advanced human analytics dataset ever. Current datasets which feast on web or social behavior alone are already worth billions, so this will be worth even more.
Enforce unwanted behavior: Do you know that feeling when you watch a commercial and want to drink a Coca-Cola? “Taste the feeehling”. Your neural lace might be able to replicate such emotions, becoming the most advanced advertisement machine. Humans are already very susceptible for addictions, therefore neural laces might easily steer us into even more.
Block content: It might be reasonable for the connected computer to block your vision if you are watching illegal content or a downloaded movie. Then it would also be possible to get blocked by people, so you are not possible to see or hear them anymore. It could even go as far that for punishment, one would not me able to see people at all. Sorry guys, I stole this idea from Black Mirror’s White Christmas episode, I love that episode!
Even when the product developers are ensuring nothing will turn evil, there are always other people in this world who make a living out of ruining our lives. Hacking of privacy invasive hardware will be a huge risk.
I know you are all probably thinking: “Tom, can you please stop your pessimistic stream of words?” Don’t get me wrong here, I love technology and would love to be connected to a brilliant computer one day. But while you are feasting on these new gadgets, don’t forget to think. We tend to jump in very deep when it comes to new technology, often without realizing its true potential.
Probably Elon Musk does not have bad intentions, however how can we be really sure? We should be able to embrace technology without having to worry about the consequences. That is why it is important to create people-first technology and democratize dangerous technology. Until Elon Musk can prove otherwise, I remain very skeptical.
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