Half-man, half machine

Errol Kerr presents the possibility of a more technological future thanks to the development of neural lace.

24th October 2016

Neural Lace is a nanotechnology-based mesh, designed to work synchronously with the brain in order to allow humans to interface with computers and augment human intelligence. No, this isn’t a science fiction novel, and no, this doesn’t have anything to do with those weird chips people shove in their heads in things like The Matrix, Star Trek and Halo. No - this is something very, very real, and Elon Musk, director and CEO of SpaceX, is developing it. Toward the end of August, Musk replied to a Tweet asking “How’s the neural lace […] going?”, indicating that there was possibly “something to announce in a few months” in regards to extending the capabilities of human beings through technological advancement.

His aim, however, isn’t solely to advance mankind to unimaginable levels. Ever seen the Terminator film series? (Of course you have!) Within the film series, Musk sees a very real fear – the inevitability that humanity will develop artificial intelligence that will, one day, develop well beyond the current capacities of human intelligence. And the last thing we need is some all-powerful inorganic being overtaking all of humanity. So, whilst Elon Musk, pioneer of all things scientific, isn’t planning sending people to Mars, or cooperating with Tesla on autonomous vehicles, he’s trying to stop the inevitable rise of the machine.

This possibility isn’t even that far away from a reality – individuals already have chips implanted allowing them to utilise prosthetics, and in mid-2015, a Harvard University nanotechnologist injected neural wire into mice successfully. It’s not going to be long until this practice can carry over onto humans. As well as advancing human intelligence, it would allow for medical professionals to monitor neural activity in individuals with physical disabilities. This could make use of possible prostheses or mobility technology just by thinking about it, and even use sections of the body that are paralysed. It could allow us to text or type without even touching our phones, allow us to utilise search engines without a second thought. If people do, indeed, think of NSFW things every couple of seconds, however, this could get very entertaining very quickly.

“The inevitability that humanity will develop artificial intelligence that will, one day, develop well beyond the current capabilities of human intelligence”

The current aim is to improve stability, however – they have a habit of losing the ability to carry signal over time, especially as the intrusive nanotech tends to damage or kill bodily cells. However, it seems that brain cells are more accepting of the inorganic components, so here’s hoping that expanded intelligence doesn’t come with a significantly shortened lifespan.

If you’re wondering where Musk’s getting his scientific influences, it’s definitely something to do with him being a huge nerd – considering he’s also played all the Deus Ex games up until Mankind Divided, so I’m a fan. Once this is all set up, you’ll find me in line at the augmentation clinic, waiting for people to shove some metal in my head. I can’t wait for symbiosis with machines. We will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.

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