The Science of Fate
Just before the world shut down due to Covid 19, I attended a talk with Neuroscientist, Dr Hannah Critchlow. The topic of conversation was The Science of Fate.
With my continuing studies of high performance it was a must attend. The Science of Fate is also the title of Hannah ‘s latest book and is a fascinating read with many of the studies that I reference contained in it.
Q and A Session
At the end of the talk there was a fantastic Q & A session.
One of the questions was from an older member of the audience who asked the question,
“With the advent of smartphones I always make a point of doing calculations in my head or with paper and pen. I also like to challenge myself by not using the satellite navigation on my phone. I believe that we need to keep these skills so that we keep using our brain”.
Dr Critchlow basically answered that even with the apps available on a smartphone we are using our brains more and more than we have in the past.
That is when she touched on a relatively new part of neuroscience called Transhumanism and spoke of a company that Elon Musk has founded. The name of the company is Neuralink.
I thought to myself, I must do some research if Elon Musk is behind something.
Neuralink is a company exploring the relatively new science of Transhumanism. Transhumanism has already many questioning its ethics. It is commonly abbreviated to H+.
Now there is no doubt that technology is impacting our lives more and more. H+ goes that very big step into merging human and machine.
Now this is very much where the ethical dilemma starts. With the advent of H+ the notion of immortality becomes closer and closer. In the near future it will enable humans to be stronger, more intelligent and healthier.
There is certainly a very big scope for artificial limbs to function as well if not better than the limb that were lost through accident or disease.
Then there is the part of the science that either excites of repulses. What if perfectly good limbs were replaced by stronger more efficient artificial limbs. Conversely what if perfectly healthy body organs were replaced with better performing artificial organs.
Thoughts of the famous novel by Mary Shelley, Frankenstein certainly come to mind to many. Frankenstein was written over 200 years ago and was certainly seen as a work of horror/science fiction.
But back to present day. Medical ethicists raise the question that currently this type of science/surgery has no checks and balances, no accountability.
The insertion of a pacemaker is a common surgery which is performed around the world many many times a day. The insertion of a metal or plastic stent into a patients heart is also a common and accepted surgery. Without the aid of these mechanical devices the patient would die, yet we don’t bat an eyelid when someone we know has one fitted.
People being fitted with an artificial leg or arm is also common place now. Why is the thought of an arm or a leg being replaced by an artificial one that functions more efficiently that the original controversial?
Who is the one that adjudicates when a person wants to replace their natural legs with more efficient artificial ones?
Religion also plays a huge role in the moral and ethics of this science. I am sure we would all love to see the day when a person who is confined to a wheelchair has the ability to walk again.
Even on a base level we now use artificial means to enhance our lives. We use hearing aids, spectacles, false teeth and implants, artificial knees, hips and the list goes on.
Given that some people may take the technology to the extreme, just imagine the myriad of ethical questions that could arise legally as to what being human or a machine even means. There is much discussion even now in sport around transgender athletes and the fairness of them competing. Imagine the ethical and moral dilemma with people with highly functioning artificial limbs.
There has been much research done with Olympic athletes and the drive and hunger for an Olympic medal, it is almost unfathomable where transhumanism would lead.
Those with immense wealth could virtually become immortal, simply replacing natural body organs & limbs with hi tech, hi performance artificial ones.
What if you die before a replacement organ is invented. You could be cryogenically preserved until a replacement is found and with the possible advances of cryogenic technology you are then able to be taken out of your cryogenic state and the replacement artificial organ inserted.
Back to Neuralink.
Neuralink came into existence in July 2016 but was kept secret until March 2017. It is based in San Francisco USA. It has been reliably reported that Musk himself has invested $100 Million into the company.
Neuralink has 3 stated goals.
1.Treating people with brain disorders.
2. Creating a brain- machine interface.
3.Building a synchronisation between the human brain and artificial intelligence.
It was reported that in 2020 they will start experiments with humans. As you can imagine with such technology there is a lot of secretiveness behind the company and the technology that it is working on for commercial reasons
One of the technologies that they are at the forefront with developing are flexible threads which minimise any potential damage or complications with the technology already in existence. These threads are capable of transmitting a huge volume of data from the brain to a computer or similar application.
The threads are 4 to 6 μm in width, which makes them considerably thinner than a human hair. Neuralink is responsible for developing these threads and Neuralink’s other big advance is they have developed a robot that automatically embeds them.
This robot uses laser technology and not a drill to implant the threads thus making the insertion much less invasive. It has been revealed that they have successfully used this technology with a monkey and the primate was able to control a computer with its mind using the technology developed by Neuralink.
Elon Musk has expressed much concern in relation to the advance of Artificial Intelligence AI and is a staunch critic.
He stated that AI will soon become just as smart as humans and when it does we should all be scared because humanity’s very existence is at stake.
IN 2006 a man by the name of Matthew Nagle had an implant inserted into his brain. Mathew has a spinal cord injury but after the procedure was able to control a computer curser with his mind.
Just four days later he mastered the curser to be able to play the computer game Pong. Further research has been done and people with similar injuries have been able to move artificial arms using only the implants and their minds.
Whilst a lot of this technology was already in existence prior to the formation of Neuralink, they have certainly moved the technology further. The technology that they are working on is much less invasive and much more powerful than what is already in use. The use of the threads mitigates any of the damage that could be done to the human brain with a solid implant.
As illustrated at this beginning of this blog with the example of the lady who insisted that she still does her calculations in her head or on paper and refuses to use the satellite navigation app on her smart phone, there will always be resistance to technology. But as Dr Critchlow stated humans are using their minds now more than in the past.
The future is both exciting and scary.
Who knows where it will take us, what is in stall for the human race as we know it? If you just think of the advances in technology since you were born no matter how old you are, they are mind boggling.
You can follow Neuralink on Twitter @neuralink and Instagram @neura.link