We live in exciting times. Earlier tonight I was sitting on the couch with my iPhone laying on the tray in front of me. I was watching a YouTube video. I was listening to the audio through a pair of Bluetooth headphones so that I wouldn’t disturb my wife. All of a sudden I remembered the scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey where Frank Poole and Dave Bowman were eating and they each had a pad that was displaying video.
We are living the science fiction stories of our youth. And it’s happening because engineers are taking them not as fantasies but as specifications. They are using them to fuel the engines of creation that our modern consumer society has become.
One person that is working these miracles of engineering is Elon Musk. He has figured out how to take a vision for a future product and distill it into steps that can be achieved with technology just beyond our grasp. As he pulls together the team of innovative entrepreneurs to realize his vision he uses the returns from the initial product to fund the evolution of it into the original product he envisioned.
He has done that with Tesla and SpaceX and is embarking on a new venture to do the same type of thing with a company called Neuralink. Neuralink is out to develop the brain machine interface that will turn us all into omnipotent geniuses.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m ready to sign up tomorrow if he had the product built and ready to go. Unfortunately, there is a long development road ahead. The first beneficiaries of Neuralink’s technology will be people profoundly handicapped by such conditions as a stroke or a spinal chord injury. This will start a positive feedback loop where the more we are able to enhance the mind machine interface, the better we will understand how the brain really works and the better we understand how the brain works, the better we’ll be able to make the interface.
Eventually we will merge, first with the machines that will have become our mental appliances, and eventually with each other. When there is no room for misunderstanding in the interface, we will have a practically infallible channel for communication.
No, I’m not that naive. We will figure out some way to have misunderstandings. Or perhaps they will be disagreements more than misunderstandings. The important thing is that they will be on a much higher level of shared understanding than our mere verbal and body language can communicate.
That, in a nutshell, is my hope for the future of the technology that Neuralink is working on even as I write this. I hope they get it right. The future is bright if they do, and a nightmare if they stumble. I am the eternal optimist. I have faith that they will get it right. Mostly.
Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.