First, it was smartphones, then smart wearables. Now we are just a few developmental years away from internet connected neural implants.
Popular science fiction often becomes science fact, but rarely does it have the potential to cripple our free will. We had Star Trek’s Borg, Person of Interest’s Samaritan AI, automating the manufacture of brain microchips and many others that deserve mention. Most fiction writers that have predicted this branch of cybernetics, also go to great lengths to point out the negative impact of brain-computer interfacing, yet we trundle head first into this eventuality without analysing the ethics that could arise.
Will people be fooled by the beneficial spin and the ‘can’t-do-without’ mentality surrounding current technology? Will there be queues around Apple stores on the release day to have sleek digital implants injected beneath our skulls or will they become mandatory on the NHS?
Of course, I can see the advantages. We just have to look at how cochlear implants have helped deaf people, and soon, how sight can be partially restored with a form of bionic eye. Research is also being conducted into implanting soldiers with micro telephony to assist in covert missions. How long before our armies are interacting together as a covert Borg-like hive mind?
I can see a near future where our daily lives are recorded and backed-up routinely. Where electronic cars are directed, and driven by, a mere thought and consumer advertising and suggestions are piped directly into our visual cortex. Computers will track us every moment of every day, giving our security forces the power to become judge and jury over all infractions, large or small. How long will it be before hackers can control our implants and shut down vital autonomic systems in our bodies, remove our memories or implant fictional ones, like in Minority Report or Total Recall?
At present, developers, including Elon Musk’s Neuralink, have been stymied by scar tissue disabling the electronic signals from first generation implants. Research has now turned towards remote connections using ultrasound or by injecting magnetoelectric particles so small, that they can interact directly with the electric field generated by an individual nerve cell.
I have no doubt, that these obstacles will be overcome in time, along with the monumental issues of programming commands for the brain interface. When they do, I suspect it will be shortly followed by binding legislation which dictates continuous access to all our neurological feeds.
Resistance, may indeed, be futile.
Sam Nash is the author of the sci-fi conspiracy thriller, The Aurora Mandate. Release date TBA. You can find her at https://www.samnash.org or on Twitter @samnashauthor or Facebook.com/samnash.author.