Daddy can I plug my brain into the internet?

The internet will tell my kids more about sex than I will ever know but technology is shaping a whole new generation of awkward questions for parents:

  • Can I get a neural link with the internet so I can compete in the Olympics for eSports?
  • Why do I have to exercise, can’t I just get my appetite suppressed using epigenetics?
  • Can I chop off my legs and replace them with prosthetics so I can be the best lifeguard on Bondi beach?

Many of tomorrow’s problems will be rooted in the decisions we as a society make today, leaving difficult explanations in their wake.

I can see clearly now my eyes are gone

I am looking forward to bionic eyes which would let me see in far more detail and overlay information on top of what I am seeing – putting labels on the trees I am walking past or the price of something I am looking at. A wealth of information fed directly from the internet, metaverse or equivalent directly into my eye. Not having these modifications could be a genuine disadvantage for you if everyone else has them.

While we are still far from that, companies like Cochlear sell implants that bypass damaged portions of the ear and directly stimulate the auditory nerve. Signals generated by the implant are sent to the auditory nerve in the brain, which the mind recognises as sound after some retraining. Braingate is turning thought into action by interfacing directly with the nervous system enabling users to move prosthetics with their mind and Elon Musk’s Neuralink is enabling monkeys to play pong.

As consumers we could become very vulnerable to the technology if it doesn’t use open standards enabling us to change suppliers easily. We risk explaining to our kids how we traded our freedom for free photo storage or a pair of xray specs – awks!

Rise of the cobots

In many ways it feels like the balance is shifting towards me helping the machine do its job rather than it helping me to do mine. I am training it to do more and more of my job giving me more time to do the things it can’t, once I can’t keep up the business will throw me out and get a new one.

Huge amounts of a scientist’s work in a hospital laboratory is automated so they can concentrate on interpretation of results and even much of that is looked at by artificial intelligence first. They work with the robots letting them get on with it unless there is an issue, not a test tube in sight!

In the future we may need enhancement in order to maintain the symbiotic relationship we have with our robot coworkers or we risk becoming the machine’s equivalent of a toilet unblocker.

Freedom of information

Google books, Wikipedia and the blogosphere archive the utterances and observations of a billion semi autonomous cognitive souls alive and dead ready for the perusal of a brain powerful enough to give meaning to lives we never really understood. Freedom of information is the mantra of the Dataists who believe experience is worthless unless it is shared.

As more and more of us buy into big data, privacy becomes less of an issue because we are voluntarily  feeding our experiences to machines we hope will ultimately make sense of everything. The meta data from our breakfast pictures on Twitter contributes in some small way to a wider search for meaning in all the outputs of humanity.

Will our flagrant disregard for privacy give the governments of the world the keys to a totalitarian state if they want it? Have we shared too much, giving away our genetic information so we could say we are related to Genghis Khan at dinner parties for example?

So Daddy can I pleeease plug my brain into the internet?

Sometimes I feel like I am worrying about traffic problems on Mars before we have even landed a person there. I don’t want to stiffle technology and certainly don’t want to disadvantage my kids by failing to give them every opportunity I can. However when I imagine talking to my biohacked daughter about the stillness of the night, one part of her may still remember what I am talking about but her bionic eyes and ears will be telling her something else quite different that I will not be able to relate to. Assuming its safe, reliable and free from corporate / government influence, how much can we modify before we are not us anymore?

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