A chip on my shoulder

The digital alarmist

In the not too distant future, I imagine each of us will have a chip on our shoulders. The silicon kind. And not necessarily on the shoulder either. Implanted in us at birth, we will be required to periodically visit the local IT czar’s office to have our credentials updated or be given a new chip. The old chip will be archived. Just like software, updated or totally new.

Worried about losing your passport or driver’s license or credit cards?  Well, don’t. They will all have been rendered obsolete.  For that matter, even money.  Replaced by digital currency. Going by current astrological predictions, Libra is in the ascendant.  

Have I lost my mind?  Yes and no. Please read on.

According to a recently published article in the New York Times, Neuralink, a company founded in part by Elon Musk, the billionaire owner of the electric car company Tesla, has embarked on creating a device which, when inserted into the brain, would allow for the rapid reading and  writing of  data.  The system would implant ultrathin threads close to the neurons deep inside the brain and have the capability of communicating with the internet. The putative applications of the system would be to assist people with severe cognitive disabilities such as vision, speech and hearing and people with mobility issues, such as amputees. Laudable goals, of course.  But will it end there?

If a system is capable of reading and storing thought, i.e., brain waves, it is equally capable of writing information into the brain. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a system which also tells you what to think? By extension, the same system can also be configured to store all personal details, financial details, school records, etc.  The very same information that Google, Facebook and Amazon can’t wait to get hold of and monetize.  We no longer have to worry about such silly issues as privacy, tracking, etc.  Aren’t you glad you are no longer just a number but a whole lot more?

Facebook recently announced plans for the creation of an ‘internet of money’ based on a new digital cryptocurrency called Libra for its 2.7 billion users. Libra is being developed by the Libra Association, comprising Facebook and several partners in the financial and technology industries. Going by the association’s mission statement, the presumptive argument for advancing such a currency is the empowerment of the 1.3 billion people, mostly poor, who are shut out of the banking infrastructure currently in place. 

Isn’t it curious that whenever IT companies announce new products, they always use security, efficiency, and convenience to promote their products?  And in many instances, the disadvantaged segments of society, especially the poor and the differently abled?

In a nod to the transparency of its operations, Neuralink’s president and company co-founder Max Hodak is quoted as saying, “We want this burden of stealth mode off of us so that we can keep building and do things like normal people, such as publish papers.” Normal people? I wish he had also addressed some of the larger implications of his company’s venture.  Especially the ethical ones.

Cogito, ergo sum?

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