Unicast Analysts Nazir Awad and Sharif Fatourehchi on Elon Musk’s venture into neurotechnology with his company, Neuralink and what implications it has for the future
From the Stone Age to the Early Modern Period, humanity has rapidly evolved and solidified its tight grip on the organic world. Animal domestication, the agricultural revolution, and the rise of globalization are hallmarks of our mastery on knowledge of the organic realm. However, through the integration of technology into our cognitive arsenal, we set ourselves on a path leading us to the depths of an uncharted territory: the inorganic realm.
Elon Musk’s neurotechnology company, Neuralink, first gained traction in the mainstream in March 2017 and the company has been making waves ever since. Neuralink’s current aim is to connect our own biological neural networks to external artificial neural interfaces that would allow us to tap into computers and networks with unprecedented ease. Musk utilized his theatrical persona to make such waves in the technological medium; he picked up some praises, many criticisms, and a lot of controversy along the way.
It is customary of Musk to use his online presence to influence a market between teatime and supper, and it really does seem like that is the basis on which Neuralink is built upon. The company’s first pitch (and all subsequent pitches) was an idealistic image of curing mental illnesses, reversing paralysis, and achieving a humanoid utopia where all our problems solved by our new upgrades. What Musk essentially did is get the attention of every young and aspiring scientist working in the field without even having begun a human trial phase. It is all incredibly impressive but still worthy of skepticism.
The suggestive rhetoric employed in such presentations always sound inspiring and earth-shattering, but what lies behind all of this is an intriguing question: What are the repercussions of a product like this being commercialized?
We are in no way talking about a new and improved supercomputer; our brains being connected to an interface is a whole new level of cognitive ability. Let us put it this way, acquiring unknown information would take biking to a library and spending hours searching for the right book for a 1940s college student, yet mobile phones allow us to do that within a few seconds. By being connected to an interface, it would take milliseconds. This is what Musk is proposing. The implications of such enhancements to our cognitive speed are astounding and quite astronomic. Doing math and recovering data would boil down to an unwavering thought; what we fail to realize is that our ability to perform everyday tasks is limited by our cognition. The sheer pace that tasks could be performed at would be enough to change everything from the methods by which we educate our youth, to the operation of industries.
Advancements in technology has had an undeniably positive impact on societies across the globe regarding the standard of living. However, it has not only failed to mitigate rifts and inequalities present among groups but, at times, has had aggravating effects. The benefits of technology to society, although has contributed to an upwards trend, has not been evenly distributed. Every cognitive leap that humanity takes is accompanied by a similar widening of the rift between those who were able to adapt or otherwise. The substantial growth in cognitive ability users will be subject to will exacerbate the imbalance we currently see in the world in regard to equality of opportunity. It will serve as ‘barrier of entry’ for many trying to stay competitive, creating a monopolistic environment for knowledge and advancement.
Despite all the fears and reservations that might be had towards such innovations, not all is lost. As Harriet Green, former CEO of IBM Asia Pacific, alludes to in her interview with Unicast Entertainment, what’ll always set us apart as a species and as individuals is our humanity, and our ability to use our intuitive empathetic skillset to excel in fields that are in dire need of such abilities. The inorganic realm is rich with silicon, motherboards, and untapped potential; can we capitalize on this potential with a stronger emphasis on human’s individuality to offset the imminent growth in inequality? Or are we heading towards a world much colder than the one Musk is selling?
Unicast’s full interview with former IBM CEO Harriet Green can be seen here.