Monday, March 17, 2014

Brain implant questions

In the Wall Street Journal, psychologist Gary Marcus and neuroscientist Christof Koch offer a fairly upbeat take on "The Future of Brain Implants" that enhance memory, intelligence and more. They conclude:
Will these devices make our society as a whole happier, more peaceful and more productive? What kind of world might they create?
It's impossible to predict. But, then again, it is not the business of the future to be predictable or sugarcoated. As President Ronald Reagan once put it, "The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave."
The augmented among us—those who are willing to avail themselves of the benefits of brain prosthetics and to live with the attendant risks—will outperform others in the everyday contest for jobs and mates, in science, on the athletic field and in armed conflict. These differences will challenge society in new ways—and open up possibilities that we can scarcely imagine.
Me: Some things people might want to consider before they get the electrodes:

Can these things be taken out (and their effects reversed)? Does the person getting them have a legal right to such removal? Does the person have a legal right to decline them? Will parents be getting them for their children on a basis of implied consent? Will employers be able to discriminate on the basis of presence or absence of implants? Will frequent upgrades be needed to keep the implants on the cutting edge or even just in working order? Will these upgrades occur automatically? Will the NSA have a backdoor into the workings of the equipment? Will hackers be able to access this technology (and if not, what technology is stopping them)? Will either licit or illicit controllers be able to turn a person with implants into an unwitting or unwilling robot or zombie?

Living "with the attendant risks" could mean quite a lot. Also, I wonder how left and right will divide, or get reshuffled, as this technology matures. Free implants for all? Stop hindering the augmented with taxes and regulations that were intended for lesser humans anyway? Interesting times.

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