Brain Chip Interfaces: a Dangerous Idea?
Brain-chip Interfaces, also known as BCIs, are a type of technology that allows for the creation of a communication pathway between the brain’s electrical activity and an external device. Currently, there are three types of BCIs:
•Non-Invasive – This method would usually require the use of an EEG cap. This method also has significantly less spatial resolution.
•Invasive – This method involves surgery which would place the activity recording device within the brain and would be a lot more expensive. However, it has a higher spatial resolution than non-invasive techniques. Therefore, it has the potential to record the activity of singular neurons.
•Partially-invasive – This technique would also require surgery. However, unlike Invasive BCIs, the activity recording device would not be in the brain. Instead, it would rest within the skull.
Our brain is filled with cells called neurons and whenever we speak, think, move or feel, our neurons are at work. This work is carried out via biochemical and electric signals. Using electroencephalograms (EEGs) we can detect these signals and each action the brain carries out has a specific pattern. For example, kicking a football may activate a certain pattern of electrical signals whereas hitting a cricket ball with a bat may activate a different pattern.
Using machine learning and AI, we can match these patterns with physical actions in a relatively short amount of time. We can then relay these patterns to external devices that have replaced body parts the user may no longer have. For example, a patient who has lost an arm would be asked to imagine themselves moving their arm while connected to an EEG. The EEG then detects the patterns and matches them to certain movements that would have been made by the severed arm. Then, doctors can attach a prosthetic arm that moves itself in the direction of the corresponding electrical signal patterns. BCIs are also used for the restoration of functions lost by neuromuscular disorders.
However, there are some people/corporations who believe that BCIs have more important uses than just medical ones, one of which being none other than Elon Musk and his invasive BCI venture, Neuralink.
Neuralink’s chip in Lab Rat
In a recent panel, Neuralink showed off some of its new technology, including flexible threads which are less likely to damage the brain than current invasive BCI chips. They also revealed a robotic surgeon and a new custom chip, called the N1 sensor, which can transmit data wirelessly and can be controlled through an iPhone app. While on the panel, Elon discussed the future of Neuralink and stated that the end goal was to “achieve symbiosis with AI” in order to “not fall behind”. Neuralink would help achieve this goal as it would allow the instant transmission of data that has been processed by AI. For example, the new viral AI model ChatGPT could be integrated with the Neuralink chip to access & process information from anywhere and at any time. Then you could use that to write a perfect essay or ace a test.
The point is the possibilities are virtually endless. It would also enable us to share thoughts, fears and hopes without even writing or speaking.
Neuralink’s Robotic Surgeon Unveiled at Panel
Now like many other people, I am concerned about what this technology means for our species. One of my main concerns is privacy — just think of the lengths corporate megastructures would go to in order to gain access to your brain data and sell you useless products. The data collected from your brain would essentially be digital gold. Also, how would you even guarantee that you are not vulnerable to hackers trying to steal your shower thoughts or that text you were thinking about sending to that girl you liked?
Well, do not fear, for I have good news. According to Musk, the technology required to achieve such feats would take around 15 years to develop. And so, I guess what you should be taking away from this is that you should enjoy being dumb while can because you might just miss it.