In this blog I consider the following question: What if AI-enabled nanobiotech implants give us much more than just speedier gathering and processing of data and information?
I am not answering this question from a bio-science point of view, which would inform us as to the physical mechanisms that are required. Nor am I answering it from a strictly philosophical point of view, which would consider the implications of these devices for our understanding of what constitutes mind and consciousness, among other issues. I am instead considering it from the point of view of someone who has spent a great deal of time in meditation, developing a surprising range of mental capabilities as a result.
Yes, I am a technologist working on Artificial intelligence (AI) and I am also a philosopher, who studied both philosophy of science and philosophy of mind as part of his degree. Although these have informed me and have led to my intense interest in this area, neither scientific nor philosophical endeavors have come close to describing the experiences and capabilities I have experienced or witnessed through meditation. The capabilities of which I speak include intuition, precognition, and telepathy, as well as some others more difficult to describe in a single word.
Of course, scientists generally treat these subjects as pseudo-scientific, the stuff of showmen or charlatans. And Western philosophers at least may conjecture but, encouraged by respect for our scientific ‘hypothesis – test – deny or amend’ method of gathering what we call then call scientific ‘truth’, they habitually ignore these subjects. They are typically left therefore to Eastern philosophy to explore and understand, which are in general founded on direct, personal experience, especially through self-investigation or analysis.
If, like me, you only believe such phenomena when experienced directly, then I am afraid you will have to treat this blog as an intellectual exercise until you too practice meditation with some diligence. In the meantime I hope this blog will pique your interest and make you consider the implications of our continuing to ignore what I believe will be by far the most far-reaching effects of adding such devices to our brains.
It’s well known that Elon Musk and others have invested hundreds of millions of $US into developing a microscopic-scale biotechnology (nanobiotech) implant that attaches directly to the brain via a hole drilled into the skull. They see advantages such as easier access to data and information, both to and from your brain via the Internet. Think of it as google-glasses on steroids, via a coin-sized device embedded in your skull and linked directly to synapses in your brain. They plan to launch their first commercial products within 5-10 years, ie between 2025 and 2030.
The theory goes that, assuming your brain adapts to the stimulus then it will consider the extra memory and processing power on offer as part of it, and thus integrate its data and circuits effectively. It follows that biotech-enhanced humans will be brighter and better-informed than ordinary humans. And that evolutionary law (assuming it applies to artificially-engineered species) dictate that these enhanced humans will be more successful, will likely breed more and will thus dominate our species.
So what’s the problem? There are two main groups of issues.
The first one is whether or not this is actually what we want to become. There is a loss of privacy and a high risk of manipulation. Not just in the narrow sense by ‘fake news’ or manipulated images but, for example by the data being collected 24/7 being used by governments or individuals who will by definition know everything about you and your life. Personal privacy may well become a thing of the past. It is also possible that instructions become more readily accepted, so population control and subservience is a definite possibility. For any followers of Star Trek, you have become one of the Borg: a controlled member of an interconnected species where all or most control comes from outside your body.
The second is that there are likely to be unforeseen capabilities. This is where my knowledge of yoga and meditation informs me. Although by convention we normally keep quiet about such capabilities, all advanced yogis gain additional mental faculties. These generally fall into one of the three groups mentioned earlier (intuition, precognition, telepathy), as well as a more significant extra group that for you to accept will require a quantum-shift in your perception of reality and/or your religious or quasi-religious beliefs. That is, our connection to the Universe, God, the Infinite or whatever name you prefer to give it.
I will discuss the fourth area in another blog but in this one I focus on the first three. All three are capabilities which I either have, occasionally have, or have experienced.
Intuition: what happens to our society if we all know what other people are feeling or thinking? Not just in their conscious minds but their subconscious desires, wants and needs too. Empathy may well increase, which should be good. But we probably all have thoughts we would rather not share with our partner, nor our boss, nor the man sitting next to you on the train. Our personal privacy has gone.
Precognition: how will our behavior modify when we (often, not always) know in advance what is going to happen? There is surely a tendency to inaction – if something is going to happen anyway, then why bother making any effort to make them happen? Most people would probably feel uncomfortable with the loss of free will this implies.
Telepathy: this is possibly the most significant of the three. We will be able to communicate with and thus will almost certainly be able to influence other people’s thoughts while physically separate from them, and perhaps over a great distance. One challenge is likely to be learning how to shut out the noise from billions of other people. Another is likely to be ensuring that the origin of any thought you experience is actually your own conscious or subconscious mind, and not someone else’s.
As you have probably guessed my novel Homo Technica considers all these issues and their implications in story form. If you are concerned to understand more about these issues then I urge you to do two things: one is to read the novel, and the other is to communicate with me to help me decide what we should do to help guide the consequences in a beneficial manner. I am certain we need to ensure the maximum number of people are aware of these issues. They are likely outcomes within only a few years.
Homo Technica also considers the fourth issue by the way. You can pre-register for a copy by visiting the CONTACTS page of this website, here: https://www.stephancollina.com
Thank you for reading this and I look forward to hearing from you.