The FDA approved Elon Musk’s Neuralink to begin brain implants on people on the 25th of May this year.
In Elon’s own words, Neuralink is chip that is implanted in the brain to control the mind.
Elon Musk is driven by the mission to expand the scope and scale of consciousness and this post coincides with the launch of xAI which aims to understand the True nature of the Universe. So the question must be asked – can Neuralink expand human consciousness and rewire our perception of reality?
What we are essentially considering is the Oppenheimer Moment of Human Consciousness: an evolutionary arms races from which there is no coming back.
In this video I will deconstruct the good, the bad and the ugly with permission from Zuby from his recent interview with Elon Musk. You can watch the full interview with Elon Musk on Zuby’s YouTube channel.
The Good: Restoration of Neurological Function
At an entry level, Neuralink promises neurorehabilitation of sensory and motor disabilities for example, with quadriplegics and tetraplegics where there is limited connection between the brain and body.
Globally, a billion people suffer from some form of neurological condition. In Australia alone, the payout for neurological conditions can be up to $70K per persons and this number continues to rise annually.
The medical device marketplace has been cashing in on these business opportunities with Nature Publishing Group marking 2023 as the year of Brain Computer Interfaces (BCI).
We can look at Brain Computer Interfaces at the level of the Central Nervous System such as Stentrode that does not penetrate the blood-brain barrier but stimulates the brain from within the blood vessels.
BCIs can also stimulate the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS) which can be Autonomic (ANS) such as vagus nerve stimulation or Somatic (SNS) such as neuroprosthetics that extract motor commands from the motor cortex, spinal cord and neuromuscular feedback to control robotic limbs.
These technologies have existed since the 1970s when DARPA initiated BCI research to detect hidden information in the brain, which cannot be revealed by conventional communication channels.
The extraordinary team at Neuralink extends this technology by light years by overcoming surgical limitations using a fully automated and, therefore scalable neurosurgery. The Neuralink device implants 1024 electrodes, distributed across 64 threads directly on the the surface of the brain.
The neurosurgical robot inserts these threads with a micrometer spatial precision given that a single electrode is only the width of a couple of red blood cells. The entire procedure is completed in under 15mins.
As someone who has successfully completed over 30 neurosurgical procedures, I am in awe of the technical sorcery that goes into this surgery. We cannot deny that the scalability of surgery can potentially change the lives of a billion people affected by neurological conditions.
This scores favourably on the stakes for humanity.
Yet, like the Oppenheimer Moment – just because we can do something, does it mean we should?
The Bad: Fallacy of the Limbic System
Elon has the unique ability to disarm audiences with a generic textbook understanding of the cortex combined with a sense of humour that scientist can only hope for. I love how Elon’s jokes take seemingly complex concepts and makes it accessible. As entertaining as this is, the joking around deflects attention from the oversimplification of concepts and leaves people with a false sense of security.
The brain does not lend itself easily to the organising principles of the universe and there are some mysteries of the human brain that cannot be reduced to first principles.
To equate the limbic system to primitive and basic instincts is the first critical flaw in Elon’s thinking. He then reevaluates:
“The irony is that despite the cortex being so smart, most of what it does is it tries to make the limbic system happy.” ~ Elon Musk
The limbic system typical refers to the subcortical structures responsible for our survival response including feeding, reproduction and flight or flight. This is all well and great but subcortical structures are also the source of self-mastery like the extraordinary ability of breath to modulate autonomic function.
At this point, I would question the sensibility of the Nerualink team – sure, you can implant digital super-intelligence but this translates poorly to mastery of the mind.
Neuralink can communicate high bandwidth information to the cortical surface but information by itself can be toxic, especially to the untrained mind. The true source of our intelligence is hidden below thought, in deep brain structures which hold the capacity for our true potential.
How do I know?
Because I can guarantee that Neuralink won’t make you happy. Only you can do that. If you want to learn more about what I mean, I talk in-depth about what it takes to train the mind in this video.
We are heading head first towards brain-machine interfaces, but we are yet to develop a healthy relationship with Brain-Body interface.
For the first time in recorded history, we are looking at a separation of intelligence and consciousness.
The brain is a primordial filter of consciousness but does not generate consciousness itself.
People mistake altered states of Perception with Consciousness. Human Consciousness is not perception but the awareness that precedes it. The nature of first principles therefore excludes Consciousness by design.
For dismissing the subcortical structures as primitive and taking a computational approach to Human Consciousness, Elon puts humanity in danger of loosing connection with their body and therefore a biological relationship to reality.
I personally don’t see the point of extending our senses to a hyperreality when we fail to inhabit our own body and grasp the true beauty inherent in this moment.
The Ugly: Symbiosis with Artificial General Intelligence
Elon already considers us to be cyborgs since our phones are extensions of ourselves and it is true: some may feel separation anxiety when they can’t find their phone. Neuralink eliminates this separation anxiety by literally adding another layer to the cortex with artificial general intelligence to acquire symbiosis between the digital and biological mind. Astonishingly, we have already had a taste of what this looks like.
Our First Contact with Ai has been with recommendations algorithms which curate our content. We have seen the social engineering that has made us slaves to our devices and the evolution of recommendation Ai with each social platform. You can learn more about how mindless scrolling is affecting the human brain in this video.
The Second contact with Ai has been with Generative Large Language Models such as ChatGPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformers). These generative Ai not only curates content but also creates content. A critical flaw in peoples imagination is that these language models are some how intelligent, to the point that some are even forming emotional dependencies with Ai. Sadly, I don’t blame them, if we had strong, healthy and stable social bonds, we as humanity would not be this desperate – we’d be horrified by these artificial bonds!
The Third contact with Ai will be with Neuralink. A symbiotic digital hive mind where the voices inside your head are indistinguishable from your own.
On the one hand Elon talks about Ai moving too fast and then overturns it with the launch of xAI. On the other hand, he talks about implant technology being so slow we won’t even notice…
The evolution of the Human species has be intimately tied to the adaptive advantage of tool use. We as a species must now consider – is the human brain an evolutionary dead end or is intelligence meant to evolve beyond the biology and towards – Hybrid Cognition.
Evolutionarily speaking, the development of our cerebral cortices are already overpowered – far more than what is necessary for survival in nature. Without nature providing a challenge for our survival – the human species has become fundamentally flawed:
We as a species are co-evolving more closely with Technology than with Nature and in some cases under the selection pressure of the very tools that we invented.
Thinking is a luxury afforded to Humanity. Generative AI is making thinking unnecessary and can potentially phase out higher order thoughts as we outsource cognitively demanding concepts to Ai. This will be the end humanity altogether as what makes us human is Sovereignty.
The optimistic descendants of the Great Apes may be the last generation of truly biological Homo Sapiens.
My hope for humanity is to form a human to human relationship built on trust, support, safety and above all Love, before AI reaches singularity – an event horizon beyond human comprehension.
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