A few weeks ago Dr. Ray Kurzweil addressed a private audience at Singularity University, providing an update (unsolicited and unscheduled) on Neuralink's brain implants: they will eventually change the way we think. In the long run, they will change the way we perceive the world.
It will not be a fight between man and machine but an important synergy, assures Kurzweil. We will really put our mind in a cloud: just as today a smartphone expands its possibilities by connecting to a network, our mind will improve its performance by accessing a cloud.
Our mind will conceive hybrid thoughts between the natural ones coming from us and those coming from the cloud. Too radical? Of course. And even premature: but the companies that work on neural implants think about this too. And Neuralink appears to be among those further ahead.
At what point is Neuralink?
It seems like yesterday, but Musk's company has been around since 2019, first with caution, then with an 'unveiling', surprising announcements (a monkey playing Pong using the mind) and controversial (how many monkeys were used for testing? Did they suffer?). From 2019 to date, the suspicion is that Neuralink has worked on two lines: one is that of the actual improvement of the systems. The other is that of social acceptance.
These are clearly two interconnected elements: miniaturizing and perfecting the machine is necessary and must be done alongside the development of a more acceptable design. An aspect that, as it was for the first iPhone in 2007, aims to become iconic and capture attention.
For this, Musk hired an industrial and digital design studio called Card79. This group of talented visionaries designed a brain machine interface concept for neuralink that focused on a balance between comfort, discretion and ease of use.
The voices inside
To develop the implant, the design studio looked at different ear shapes. And (consistent with the current state of technology, still not quite "invisible") they have devised a design that fits behind the ear and acts as an interface between your brain and the cloud. The latest development already seems much more comfortable and discreet, but still resembles one of the first bulky hearing aids.
More interesting (at least for now) is to see the demonstration video that Card79 produced a year ago in order to show some examples of use of the system. It will allow people to ask questions to an "internal" voice assistant (kind of like having Alexa, but directly in mind) by accessing information very quickly. Even services such as maps, weather news and more would be accessible without consulting a smartphone.
The video came out a little quietly, it only has a few hundred views, but it's pretty interesting (and a little creepy).
One day in the mind
The video "follows" a man through a normal day as he interacts with his personal AI called EVA, which interacts with him through the mind. What if someone "spies"? The scenario foresees that there is an encrypted connection between a person and his implant: no risk (are you sure?) That our "inner" dialogue is stolen.
EVA, as a perfect collaborator would do, shows man his vital parameters. "You slept well, albeit a little less than usual. Maybe a cooler room would help you: tonight let's try to regulate the temperature in the bedroom. You have a message from Brian, Janice wants to chat with you. Silent phone calls and notifications until 11:30. "
My God, will it be a voice speaking in the head? Apparently not: more a thought, like the ones we still have today. And you could turn it off, perhaps with a mobile app. It still sounds a little too "loud", at least for my generation.
The possibilities are endless: adding a sort of cybernetic "second consciousness" to ours will "challenge" us to fight for our part, avoiding succumbing to a "super mind" that knows everything and provides us with every data effortlessly.
Cooked? Well, step by step "suggested" recipe. Mentalized, pass me the term. Tie knot? Yes, now I know how. Yes, I don't forget that Musk's startup was born mainly with medical purposes, to cure various diseases: the first, scheduled for 2027, is tinnitus. It could already be worth the ticket price, at least for those forced to hear a deafening whistle all day.
Lights and shadows of a 'second mind'
How will our work change? And our creativity? Hard to imagine. And moving forward, a future, more advanced version will be able to suggest solutions, answers, products to people based on their mood, personalizing their experience in ways we can't even predict.
And risking, to use Yuval Harari's words, of "hacking" a human being.
To hear Kurzweil we should not be too alarmed: I say that there are very strong signs of an incredible growth in artificial intelligences, and they will still grow beyond belief. To accommodate changes as deeply invasive as a brain implant we will have to work a lot. And then, with the amplification of our intelligence through information technology, we will have to prepare ourselves for entirely new ways of living.