Save this date in your calendars: on August 28, 2020, Elon Musk will give a press conference to present Neuralink’s latest developments.
This announcement takes me back 6 years in time. I remember specifically October 2, 2014. At 6 P.M. I had just finished my talk on “Security as a Vector of Innovation in Open Banking” at the “Assises de la Sécurité” in Monaco. Passing by chance in front of a room that announced a talk by Laurent Alexandre, I saw a theme which sparked a challenge in me: “hacking the brain, the ultimate threat …”.
NBIC and Neuro-Hacking
Laurent Alexandre was defending the iconoclastic thesis that with the rise of power of NBIC (neural brain-computer interfaces), neuro-technologies, and the coming automation of intellectual tasks, human beings would integrate more and more technologies into their bodies.
He discussed the ethical, political, and moral issues that arise in an environment where the human brain, this “computer made of meat,” becomes a technically hackable device! Hacking would be much easier to manipulate than education, which appears to be only a rudimentary form of neuro-hacking! This has been the source of many of my reflections over the last 6 years, especially concerning the protection of identity and the dystopian concerns of a trans or post-humanized society.
During this conference, Laurent Alexandre predicted mass neuro-hacking for the 2040s.
Before that, he anticipates the emergence of neuro-hacker crafts, the industrialization of which to be carried forward by the transhumanist guru Ray Kurtzweil, acting as CTO at Google.
Despite my sensitivity to the exponential speed of the innovations powered by Moore’s Law, I was amazed at the speed with which these developments were happening when, two years later, in 2016, the Valley’s ineffable troublemaker, Elon Musk himself, announced Neuralink. His goal was as simple as it was demiurgic: to massively implant neuro-connectors (BCI, Brain-computer interfaces) in the human brain to connect it directly to the cognitive power of the cloud via a very high bandwidth interface.
Bypassing our classic sensorial perceptions, the possibilities become vertiginous. And even though Musk’s various companies are all dedicated to changing the world (Solarcity, Tesla, the Boring Company, and SpaceX), Neuralink is arguably the most transgressive vision, as it directly attacks the sanctuary of transcendent metaphysics: ontology. Indeed, our brain carries what we are, as a person, as a Being, as a subject, as a citizen. This question of Being is the basis of philosophical reflections from Aristotle to Heidegger!
Since Musk’s announcement, these techno-biological evolutions are necessarily at the center of numerous bioethical reflections, and once again, the political orientations framing these laws are complex to understand as they require transversal competences: often philosophical (what does it mean to be human), sometimes religious (the brain, computer made of meat, can it be the seat of a soul outside the body), technological (the revolution of the BCI is only a variation of the “open everything » driven by the APIs). This question is far too important to be abandoned to the hand of politicians who are ill-prepared in these fields.
In recent months, the most advanced technology companies have positioned the new concept of “Open Everything.”
Generally discussed in the context of business disciplines, Open Everything has been accompanied by a series of guides, know-how, and best practices to support its use and allow us to benefit from the advantages of this openness while minimizing the risks (especially on technological vulnerabilities). This has enabled open banking, open insuring, Amazon’s ecosystem…
However, with these new human APIs, which will allow interconnecting the human brain with the services of the giants of the web, it is essential to take the lead and think more broadly about these issues before the worst happens.
Today, applied brainwave research is already providing read access to the human brain. At CES, I personally tested a brain helmet that allowed me to pilot, by simple thought, a car simulation.
But what the BCIs propose is to go a step further. The BCIs appear as generic cerebral APIs in “read/write,” much more powerful than all the technologies described by Sergei Tchakhotine in his illustrious book « The rape of the masses; the psychology of totalitarian political propaganda ».
Indeed, even if it can be considered as a simple evolution of existing specific implants such as cochlear implants (which allow hearing sounds by stimulating the auditory nerve terminations) or retinal implants which, although still limited, allow blind people to perceive shapes and colors, Neuralink implants are generic and can cause risks that are worthy of the worst fiction, making human beings hackable.
This is because an API is a gateway to a system which, if not sufficiently secure, can be exploited by a hacker. Consider the parallel between a hacked server and what it would look like if this mass hacking applied to the brains of human beings?
Hackers could then, in the best-case scenario, have access (perhaps before the individual himself) to the thoughts and secrets of a political leader, military leaders. In the worst case, the ability of BCI APIs to alter cognitive skills could alter reasoning or create false memories or millions of true-false witnesses. Especially considering that “Neuralink 2.0” may be wireless!
And of course, as always, like all transhumanist technological “advances,” they will be presented for the good of humanity, with the declared intention to improve human conditions, to fight against degeneration and health disorders, to euthanize death!
Should the human API, BCI, be regulated, by whom, will there be a PSD2 of the BCI?
Should all publishers of APIs be required to obtain safety certification (common criteria)?
Unfortunately, in this field, like genetic manipulation, we can only ask questions and expose risks (do’s and don’ts), and tell ourselves that, when Elon Musk’s passion gets attached to a subject, it progresses much faster than we can imagine. As a result, we should all stay informed, of course!
Open Everything, yes, but not with anything, not in just any manner, not with just anyone!
Read more: It’s Time to Open Everything