A Glimpse into the future – Neuralink
By: Rudransh Kulshreshtha
We often say time does not stop for anyone and we have witnessed this in our modern world, now more than ever: from the invention of mobile phones and televisions in less than a hundred years, to the invention of global communication via World Wide Web. Our world dynamics are constantly changing, including political and social structures. One of the most important incidents of the 21st century was of data surpassing oil as the most valuable resource. This really changed the power dynamics of the modern world and set us on a trajectory of everything becoming technological. One such example of highly innovative technology is Neuralink. Let us look at what it is and the implications of such a technology in detail.
What it is
Neuralink is a technology that allows the implantation of micro threads which contain numerous electrodes, packed in a chip, into the human skull through the help of high-precision robots and artificial intelligence. The micro device, also called the “link” will emit, stimulate and process neural signals at ultra-high bandwidth. Powered via wireless charging, this will allow the person to control their electronic devices such as mobile phones and computers without actually being in contact with them[i]. It will directly allow our everyday technology to interface with our biological brain. This is of course, just the genesis of a technology that is credited to Elon Musk”, the founder of Tesla, and technology innovator and entrepreneur,, which has insurmountable potential applications.
While we do not know exactly what future holds, we surely have an idea if not an accurate estimation, of what the future of Neuralink holds, thanks to Elon Musk for revealing some ideas in his podcast with Joe Rogan[ii]. Future iterations of Neuralink can apparently allow a revolution in medical industry with the potential to treat previously incurable diseases such as paralysis, limb functionality, and multiple neurological disorders and even restore sensory functions. This could mean that a blind person could regain their eyesight, a person on a wheelchair could start walking again, or a person with erectile dysfunction could regain functionality, just with the help of a micro-technology. The way it will achieve this is by stimulating different parts of the brain which are responsible for those functions, by emitting electrical signals. This will activate the action potential in the previously dormant neurons and therefore, allow the function of the target organ or tissue. This is of course a highly simplified explanation of how the technology would actually work.
Simply speaking, the potential of such a technology is vast; from development of military applications into something like Captain America from the Marvel universe to telepathy[iii]. We are looking at something similar to the symbiosis of technology and biology, fully integrated i.e. artificial intelligence symbiote or cyborg, which is already, in a way occurring, but on a limited scale due to limitations in input and output. Communication will be revolutionized, many languages will go extinct, and life as we know currently will completely change, including modifications in our everyday behavior and in our daily activities. Economic sector will be hit in a unique way. There is no particular way to even estimate what will happen to jobs that currently require manual labor such as bricklaying, building, or state policing. The possibilities of negative and positive implications are endless and just like with every new source of power, it will have the potential to be abused and manipulated. Nonetheless, the simple truth is that we do not know and cannot say with certainty, where this rapid change will take us and evolve us into, or how the world will look like in the coming future. All we can do is aspire to be not wrong about the path we are taking and do less harm.
Coming back to the present, we cannot deny the fact that we live in a dominantly capitalist world. One particular phenomena, that has a huge potential to act as a devastating side effect and which is highly probable, is that the advantage gained by a minority of population who acquire the tech before anyone does will insurmountably surpass the general population. In terms of capacity and potential, a few faster in the race to get it, will have the upper hand before people are even aware of it or it becomes available to everyone at an affordable cost. It would be sensible to say that corporate giants will be more inclined to hire a person who will potentially be more productive and will have less general stress clauses like paying off a loan and managing a stressful social position. Since, Neuralink has the potential to reduce stress clauses, unemployment in many sectors would not be surprising due to the advantage gained through Neuralink. This could even result in permanent disappearance of some jobs due to humans being able to multitask more efficiently due to partial automation of the brain, so labor requirements would likely decrease[iv] because a lesser population of employees would be able to achieve equivalent to a larger population of employees with no implant link. There is no particular way to even estimate what will happen to jobs that currently require manual labor such as bricklaying, building, or state policing since automation keeps increasing in these fields of work.
Many people fear that human consciousness will be altered beyond naturality and the reason behind it could be extensive integration of AI with our daily lives[v]. A good question to ask would be if we really want to create a technology that will change us into something we do not know. It is said that the biggest fear of humanity is the fear of the unknown and mysterious[vi]. Throughout eras change has been inevitable, so has the curiosity for knowing what the future holds. Rationally, the logical way would be to appreciate the positive aspects and the new innovation of Neuralink rather than pondering over the potential dangers of the application. What do you think?
Rudransh Kulshreshtha is a 1st year BA/BBA LLB in JGLS.
[i] Neuralink.com [ii] Elon Musk on Joe Rogan Experience [iii] Elon Musk’s Neuralink: what’s science and what’s not Fixing the brain isn’t just an engineering problem, By Nicole Wetsman Sep 29, 2020 [iv]10 jobs under near extinction on INSIDER by Lia Ryerson [v]Jaron Lanier on The Social Dilemma [vi]‘Supernatural horror in literature’, H.P Lovecraft