In the late 1990s an English scientist and engineer named Kevin Warwick designed and installed a microchip in his arm. This chip allowed him to control small machines that he designed to respond to his microchip. He improved the chip to also give feedback. He built a baseball cap with a radar array on it and gave himself an artificial sense. As I was on my walk today I was thinking about the smartphone I had in my pocket. I use this phone to listen to music on my walk, to study things via the internet while I’m at a restaurant, and to look up funny pictures when I am bored. Now imagine a melding of these two technologies. A smartphone that communicates directly with your nervous system.
In 2006 Matthew Nagle, a paralyzed man, was able to operate a computer mouse using an implanted machine in his brain. This is nothing totally new, there have been the cochlear implants for inner ears to restore hearing to the deaf. This was more of proof of concept. Reported just a few days ago a number of neurologists claimed to have been able to implant memories in the brain of a lab rat. These technologies, when combined, will radically change the way humanity lives and interacts.
First, Computers will be able to get a lot smaller because the input/output part will be built into the user. That means keyboards, mice, microphones, screens, printers, speakers, all will start to go away and be replaced by the human mind. This will allow for much quicker access for information than we have now, even with the internet.
Schools won’t have to issue text books in physical form, they will be all digital. Memos and emails will be delivered right to the employee. Politicians will never be able to get away with claiming they didn’t do something because their public records will be right there for all to read.
There will be things to worry about, however. Already with the internet we have a lot of information being produced that is faulty. Either by ignorance, ideology, or malice, there is just a lot of bullshit on the internet. This might not change when the internet goes neural. But perhaps the experience of the internet will help temper the transition to neural networking.
Some will be worried about being able to be tracked anywhere on earth, but frankly you can be tracked now. The technology will not make anyone easier to find, in fact, because of hacking people will be able to cloak themselves and if oppressive governments use these for tracking, they will run into problems and likely return to current methods of tracking which are harder to evade.
What about those same hackers hacking the implants and hurting the host human? This will be a problem that needs to be dealt with. It is annoying when your computer crashes, but normally you just reload it. The same will likely be true for the on-board computer system. it would just be embarrassing to have to reload your system in the middle of a presentation, or get stuck in a pornado. (That’s a situation when a bunch of pop-up pornography blankets your screen with windows.)
Ultimately this technology will increase productivity and reduce cost of living. But it will be troublesome getting there as people will be both unsure about what to do and willing to do improper things to abuse this new technology. Baring a massive culture shift, this will happen, so be ready.