Merging Mind and Machine
After exploring Elon Musk's new venture, I am almost entirely convinced that this sci-fi advancement somehow succeeds in eclipsing Tesla and SpaceX. Whilst these two companies attempt to explore the prospect of what future humans can do, Neuralink reimagines the future of what humans will be. Musk’s Neuralink focuses on the development of brain-machine interfaces that can connect minds to machines.This method encompasses the use of electrodes on the scalp or implants in the brain to gather electrical signals that emit, and then decode them for different purposes. Neuralink aims to create a “direct cortical interface”, permitting the upload and download of thoughts, with the potential to be utilised in enabling paraplegics to control computers. The intricacies of the device is fascinating to say the least and these ideas very much so encompass the notion of science fiction while transforming them into reality. The possibilities of Neuralink are endless including potential application in the field of mental health in providing hope for effective treatments for sufferers of severe mental illnesses.
In July 2019, Neuralink made an announcement on their development on the technology. They revealed a tiny microchip that could be embedded behind the ear with electrodes that fan out to the brain. Indeed, this concept isn’t unique for example, in 2012 scientists demonstrated technology that supported a paralyzed person to control a mechanical arm. Despite this, besides ameliorating the lives of those with neural or mobility conditions, Elon Musk proposes facilitating a “symbiosis” among humans and AI. Many would interpret these theories to be fantasy and unrealistic however, the company reported they had already successfully managed to get a “monkey to control a computer with its brain” using this technology, with the vision to start human trials before the end of 2020.
Neuralink is motivated by a fear consumed by many- artificial intelligence. Musk shares these fears and has frequently expressed concern in regards to AI dominating the human race. Musk has invested $100 million dollars in an attempt to enhance our brains and achieve “symbiosis” with AI machinery.
“The merge scenario with AI is the one that seems like probably the best. If you can’t beat it, join it.”
- Elon Musk
The prospect of technology opens up even more far-reaching possibilities within psychology, such as digitizing the mind to allow existence in cybernetic worlds, thereby leaving behind the human body completely. The organic brain is construed by many transhumanists as a restrictive factor and “uploading” their minds to another medium would be highly beneficial. For instance, Andy Clark describes the body as “good old-fashioned skin-bag” and draws attention to the way in which it serves as a restrictive element for even mundane purposes such as communicating with others over a long distance, whereby we must use different channels to project our voice. He contends that the body has a similar value to any other prop and implies that this component will continue to serve the mind in our current environment, however, it will undoubtedly be replaced. This is an important development as it changes the way we think about human beings and the human mind. Our notion of self, death and life would be intensely transformed.
Although I do not doubt some of Musk’s aims, I am more skeptical of his stated vision — that Neuralink will one day promote the augmentation of human consciousness with artificial intelligence.