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Elon Musk's Neuralink Project - Selin Edil '23

INTRODUCTION: What is the Neuralink Project?

Neuralink Corporation, a company in neurotechnology, develops implantable brain-machine interfaces (BMIs). The business, which shares space with OpenAI and has its main offices in San Francisco's Pioneer Building, was created by Elon Musk, Max Hodak, and Paul Merolla. Neuralink was introduced in 2016, and it was first made public in March 2017.


The neural lace, according to Musk, is a "digital layer above the brain" that may be implanted via an artery or vein rather than undergoing extensive surgery. He claims that the long-term goal is to create a "symbiosis with artificial intelligence," which, if not prevented, he claims, poses an existential threat to humanity. He thinks the technology would "address brain injuries or spinal injuries and make up for whatever lost capacity somebody has with a chip" and be "something akin to a video game, like a saved game situation, where you are able to restart and upload your last state."


Ethics of The Neuralink Project

Animal Cruelty

With the experiments on Gertrude, specialists came to the conclusion that since there are no wires protruding out through the skin of the animals, the chip's wireless nature may be advantageous for animal testing. However, as soon as the experiment involved monkeys, complaints of animal mistreatment started to surface. Only 7 of the 23 monkeys owned by Neuralink, according to the American animal rights organization Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), have made it through the testing procedure. As of February 2022, PCRM officially complained about Neuralink to the US


Department of Agriculture for mistreating animals and conducting intrusive testing. The business has denied the accusations and stated that it treats the animals it works with humanely. The animals were allegedly mutilated and abandoned to die, according to PCRM, which has since launched a second case.


Mind Control

Despite how preposterous it may sound, there is a danger that Neuralink chips may be hacked and used for mind control. The primary benefit of the technology—the capacity to control objects with your mind—is also its biggest drawback. The devices that connect the brain to computers might give hackers access to the brain. Through this route, hackers could be able to persuade wealthy people to transfer funds to their account or even influence elections in a candidate's favor. The chip would link to your phone through Bluetooth, which the business claims to have lax security requirements.


Many experts are concerned since Musk also stated that the Neuralink app, which would link a smartphone to the brain, will be available on the App Store. They think that consumers would unintentionally download a knockoff program, which would again compromise the chip's security.


Altered Personalities

If the technology proves to be as effective as the business promises at increasing brain activity, it may change people's personalities. This might have negative repercussions even if it can appear helpful for people recuperating from mental health disorders without the need for counseling or medication. The chip's stimulation of the brain could not always have beneficial consequences; it might instead serve to amplify violent or aggressive tendencies.


Healthcare

According to a Deloitte research, 33% of the business volume for insurance companies in five years will come from unreleased goods. The insurance industry is about to undergo a significant transformation. Neuralink brain implants are an example of an innovation that highlights the broad range of issues that technology poses:

  • Taking on the issue of growing regulatory requirements, Neuralink and similar technologies put further regulatory pressure on insurers and their associates. According to a recent survey, the biggest issue and barrier to innovation as identified by C-level management is the need to frame the adoption of new technology within each country's regulatory framework. Is regulation capable of keeping up with innovation? How should insurers respond if an employer asks for access to the data Neuralink is monitoring? Are insurance firms required to give this information to security forces?

  • Keeping up with tech giants and start-ups The success of Neuralink might speed up the entry of start-ups and well-funded rivals into the insurance business, including Apple, Google, and Amazon. A big change is on the horizon because of our ability to develop and integrate with already accessible digital services. Established insurance firms can think about taking the lead by utilizing their understanding of the market and their clientele to develop new services, boost operational effectiveness, and foresee how the client experience could change. The use of new technologies like Neuralink would speed the entry of start-ups and well-funded rivals into the insurance business, including Apple, Google, and Amazon. The capacity to innovate and forge connections with currently available digital services portends a significant shift. Established insurance firms can think about taking the lead by utilizing their understanding of the market and their clientele to develop new services, boost operational effectiveness, and foresee how the client experience could change.

  • Customers are increasingly looking for insurers and partners to provide them access to innovative healthcare products and services, according to a Capgemini poll. An increasing percentage of clients base their decisions on the service provider's technological "edge" and aptitude for embracing and incorporating innovation into their current insurance coverage.

Disabilities

Musk's repeated statement that Neuralink will initially aim to "address key brain and spine problems" is likely to have caught the attention of disabled individuals. Throughout the presentation, Neuralink was in fact mentioned as having the power to treat a variety of chronic and fatal conditions, including blindness, spinal cord injuries, memory loss, brain damage, and even depression.


Patients with spinal cord injuries will be the main focus of the company's initial set of clinical trials. This may sound like an interesting story to those with disabilities who are listening, or at the very least, different from the professional publications' dreary medical terminology and quantitative facts.


Limits of the Neuralink Project

Even if we were to uphold the notion that freedom is about each person's right to make their own decisions, we would still need to take into account issues like how expensive neurotechnologies are and how widely accessible they are. In particular, this can favor socioeconomic groups who already have advantages in specific professions (such as medicine, science, philosophy, etc.) or even in important political professions like those in higher administration. Democracies would face difficult questions as a result.


However, we cannot deny ourselves the potential advantages of "intelligent" brain implants and their applications for bridging medical diagnostic and therapeutic gaps in a variety of brain illnesses, as well as for enhancing social interactions and protecting the natural habitats of living things.


Because of this, the study of brain sciences and neurotechnologies is crucial for philosophical, social, and ethical debate. Although Neuralink is a private initiative, the "tomorrow" that this startup envisions calls for a kind of moral responsibility that need not only be understood as an individual choice: a human community is not a sum of individuals; otherwise (if one were to consider it that way) one runs the risk of condemning the concept of humanity and humanist values). This is the rationale behind Musk's moral inability to sidestep the existential question, "What is Human?"


Hacking the Neuralink

Due to the intrinsic physical separation between humans and technology, earlier periods were characterized by barriers preventing hackers from reaching their objectives. What transpires, though, when the line between technology and people is blurred? when they are basically the same thing?


A major security risk for BCI technology like Neuralink is this. The primary benefit of the

technology, allowing direct brain-to-computer communication, may also prove to be its largest security weakness. There wouldn't be a distinction between people and machines that calls for authentication and judgment.


Hackers may gain complete control over a person if a computing device that is actually attached to the brain, like Neuralink, were to be compromised.


What may human hacking entail if Neuralink is able to precisely and thoroughly scan the human brain? Hackers will definitely target affluent people and maybe attempt to deceive them into transferring millions of dollars to an offshore bank account, according to recognized practices. Executive decisions made in boardrooms might potentially be hacked, with severe financial ramifications.


A more worrying possibility is that a hacker might quietly overturn governments and whole state infrastructure if they were able to convince a substantial portion of the populace to favor a certain candidate, party, or issue. In the worst-case scenario, hacking a Neuralink-like device may turn "hosts" into controllable drone armies that would obey any orders issued by their "master." Imagine the power a hacked army of sentient beings would have. Automobile autopilot software has previously resulted in fatalities.


Advantages and Disadvantages of Neuralink

Advantages:

  1. Improved interaction and cooperation between AI and people.

  2. Bettering the quality of life for those who are disabled.

  3. Improved capacity for knowledge learning and retention.

  4. Increased capacity for creativity and problem-solving.

  5. More gadgets and the internet are connected.

  6. Quicker reflexes and enhanced physical performance.

  7. The capacity to operate machinery and artificial limbs with your thoughts.

  8. A deeper comprehension of the brain.


Disadvantages:

  1. Possibility of abuse and exploitation.

  2. Privacy invasion.

  3. BCIs may have unintended negative effects, including as addiction, anxiety, or sadness.

  4. Difficulty in removing or fixing a BCI if it breaks.

  5. Greater chance of infection or brain damage.

  6. The BCI technology is expensive.

  7. There has been little study of BCIs' long-term consequences.


Conclusion

Neuralink, in my opinion, has the potential to function as a sort of smartphone-like extension of ourselves. In certain fields, like health care, it will undoubtedly be beneficial. I think there are a lot more hyperparameters than we previously thought that can change how our brains work. The exact mechanisms by which the brain works are not well understood. There is still no general AI. How intelligence functions is still a mystery to us.


Bibliography

Ranjan, P. (2022, February 10). Neuralink pros and cons. Sci Fi Logic. Retrieved November 25, 2022, from https://scifilogic.com/neuralink-pros-and-cons/.


Alexiou, G. (2021, December 10). Could Elon Musk's Neuralink be a game-changer for people with disabilities? Forbes. Retrieved November 25, 2022, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/gusalexiou/2020/09/08/could-elon-musks-neuralink-be-a-game-changer-for-people-with-disabilities/


Fourneretis, É. (2022, April 1). The dangers of Musk's Neuralink. IAI TV - Changing how the world thinks. Retrieved November 25, 2022, from https://iai.tv/articles/the-dangers-of-musks-neuralink-auid-2092


Lau, J. (2020, November 17). Council post: Hacking humans: How Neuralink may give ai the keys to our brains. Forbes. Retrieved November 25, 2022, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2020/11/18/hacking-humans-how-neuralink-may-give-ai-the-keys-to-our-brains/


Pandey, K., & Pandey, A. K. (2022, June 11). What is Neuralink? the ethics of Elon Musk's brain chip. Jumpstart Magazine. Retrieved November 25, 2022, from https://www.jumpstartmag.com/what-is-neuralink-the-ethics-of-elon-musks-brain-chip/#:~:te xt=Ethical%20issues%20surrounding%20Neuralink&text=As%20of%20February%202022% 2C%20PCRM,animals%20in%20a%20humane%20manner.




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