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article imageOp-Ed: How reassuring — Monkey with implant can play video games

By Paul Wallis     Feb 7, 2021 in Technology
Sydney - Brain interfaces have been around for quite a while. Now, the never-ending Elon Musk has implanted a monkey with a brain chip, and the monkey can play video games. Old tech theory, new take, but why?
The actual idea does have some positive perspectives. The chip is wireless, and Musk says “monkeys (plural) can play Pong with each other”. Never mind the syntax, consider workable relationships between people on this basis. Not exactly clear, is it, but there are some useful options for complex communications for communication-isolated people, and any number of high-priority communications where speed and accuracy are required.
At the moment, however, the idea seems to be at novelty level. There’s more, though, and it’s not quite as obviously innocent. Predictive behaviour through chip links is another option. So is “telepathy”, which would be such a help in a polarized world, not noticeably.
The general thrust of this is animal welfare, for some reason. Presumably millions of (usually endangered) monkeys playing Fortnite would solve a few environmental problems?
Musk is way out of his depth here, and so is neuroscience. Maybe high profile people like this sort of extremely high risk stuff, but it’s not necessarily a great move. This is tricky, dangerous stuff, applied at any level other than Shopping Channel aspirations and cute video clips. Mental control obviously works both ways, and that ain’t good. From a passive sensor to a controller is how far of a step? Just a few switches.
As usual, nobody’s looking at any downsides
One of the most tedious, not to say downright annoying, facets of neuroscience is the idea that there’s no risk of abuse with these highly invasive technologies. “Everybody would be perfectly safe with a hackable device in their heads and/or no direct self-control of chips”, one would think.
The Blasé Rich Kid/ Smug Neuroscience approach to technology leaves everything to be desired. All technologies are abused, every day. Fire, for example. Why wouldn’t this tech be abused? What could you do if a chip gets hijacked and someone committing a crime thinks they’re playing a video game? What if it’s a wargame, and people are getting killed? Not a lot.
Artificial intelligence in humans….Ah, yeah, sure…
One of the odder instances in the coverage of this little sojourn in extreme risk is the mention of a correlative idea of “artificial intelligence in humans”. Whether making up the deficit in natural intelligence, or adding AI capacity to human brains makes sense or not, it’s an odd mix.
AI links with humans could be on a very simple, safe, basis. A calculator in your head because you’re too damn lazy to figure things out yourself or whatever, perhaps. A digital tuner to get information. Pretty easy, really.
…But AI goes to many different levels, and unlike many human brains these days, has an output. How would a human brain take that information? “Big Data + equals this” turns into an informed opinion?
Connecting an analogue input to any digital interface has a few issues, too. The human brain doesn’t run on binary code. It uses multi-level logic and synthesized chemical processes and microvolt neural charges. Computers are nowhere near that or anything like it.
Dumbing the human brain down to binary could be an own goal of colossal proportions. Binary is literally number crunching on a basal level. Plug in a human and you could wind up with an idiot who literally can’t process their own thoughts. You could overwrite the person, in fact.
A bit of oversimplification here:
• Playing simple games, sure. Not a lot of risk at all.
• Processing AI information on much more than that scale in that form, no.
• Security risks – Too many, and too diverse.
• Neurological impacts would have to be assessed as would neural system risks.
• A fix would have to be in place for the inevitable malfunctions, and you couldn’t be sure of getting the original person back in working order.
Cover the risks, or take the risks.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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