Thanks to Elon Musk and his startup company Neuralink, we might just be able to experience brain Implants that promise telepathic communication within the next couple of years.
Brain implants and neural telepathy
Established in 2016 as a medical research company, Neuralink is reportedly developing a brain-machine interface that can enable human beings to connect with other people and machines over high bandwidth. This will be done by implanting tiny electrodes in the human brain.
“There are a bunch of concepts in your head that then your brain has to try to compress into this incredibly low data rate called speech or typing… If you have two brain interfaces, you could actually do an uncompressed direct conceptual communication with another person,” Musk explains his idea of telepathic communication to The Daily Mail.
Musk plans to have a working model ready in about four years, which will largely be aimed at helping patients suffering from cancer, stroke, and serious brain injuries to properly communicate with the people around them. And in just about 8-10 years, Musk believes that the full, matrix-like product will be available for the public. Neuralink reportedly raised about US$27 million dollars in funding in August last year.
The long wait
Despite Musk’s upbeat projection of getting the product in the market within four years, there are ample reasons to believe that it will be a long time before it happens.
And this mostly has to do with a simple fact — we know very little about the human brain. As such, fitting in electrodes that transmit thoughts and manipulate the brain is something that will never be approved by free governments. Research on its effects on human beings could alone take decades.
“The thing Elon Musk wants to have ready in four years relies on an organ we don’t fully understand and technology that doesn’t exist yet. While it’s always useful to have more people working on these tough problems, you shouldn’t expect a ‘wizard’s hat for the brain’ any time soon — and certainly not on Musk’s timeline,” columnist Angela Chen writes in an article published on The Verge.
The ethical implications
There are also ethical implications of the technology that need to be addressed. On the negative side, concerns exist that such a “brain telepathy” technology could end up making one person highly influenced by another. Chances of being brainwashed also remain a serious concern.
On the plus side, the technology can be used for making criminals understand why their actions were wrong and why they were punished for it. “The real reason people become criminals is often that they don’t have opportunities and don’t have the skills they need to succeed in society. They might need to understand that you don’t need to solve problems with violence. So I can imagine using cognitive enhancement in rehabilitation”, Anders Sandberg, a senior researcher at Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, said in an interview with IEEE Spectrum.
Whatever the consequences may be, one thing is certain — that the technology will create a massive change in the way people live when it is finally launched. And just like any other technology, what will ultimately decide whether the neural interface will end up being bad or good for the human race will be the nature of people themselves and how they decide to use it. But when you take into account the history of human behavior and its natural tendency to subjugate, it doesn’t bode well for mankind.