Neuralink yesterday had their first major press release. I have followed this company from its inception as of however many years ago. I admit freely that my interest lies less in the benefits that it can bring to people suffering from various mental or physical ailments for which it could be of assistance, and more in the fantasies I have regarding human intelligence in general.
My favourite author is Peter F. Hamilton, a man who with his stories has achieved a wild degree of prescience. His ability to capture not only what impending technologies will look like, but also far more interestingly, their impact on society as a whole, has always fascinated me. When you imbue technology with the humanity which consumes it, how then does it look. I have no doubt he is not the first author to envision a brain machine interface but he is without question one who has explored it with exceeding thoroughness. Not a single one of his sci-fi worlds has indeed existed without one. They are known throughout his writing by many names: ushadow, ebutler, or some other abbreviation.
Regardless of name, they ultimately perform the similar function of elevating their user far beyond what the current human brain is now capable of. I have critically examined why it is that this holds so much interest for me. The concern being that I may be cloaking a very base desire for some new shiny thing in the always attractively deceptive belief that no, this is really loftily pursued hopes and dreams. I do not want to delude myself. And I believe with fair confidence I can say that I have not. We are able to lie to ourselves so convincing at times it is hard to tell what a rationalized limbic indulgence is compared to an aspirational thought. And that we are constantly changing what we truly believe aspirational to be does not make matters any easier to comprehend. The circles I go in sometimes. Regardless, as I say, I am confident.
I want to experience more of life. That is the reason this technology so appeals to me. There is, I think, a mistaken impulse to self-flagellate when we aspire to things beyond our set of readily developable skills. It can be seen as greedy, like the petulant child who is never satisfied with the quite amazing life they have been given by their loving parents. And I would not argue that this does not hold some grain of truth. I do have strengths. I do have skills that I have been able to develop through practice and training. And first and foremost I should be grateful to have even that opportunity: to develop that which comes arguably most naturally to me.
But I would argue that it is only a mistaken sense of self-censorship that requires we stop there. Because I want to know more does not mean that I do not appreciate what I know already. Quite the contrary, I find the more I know, the more I learn, that feeds the part of me which wants to know anything at all, and it is not limited to one topic. All points in my education feel interconnected. I love film, so how do I film? Cameras are used to film, so how do I use a camera? It seems to me the most natural thing in the world that a boundary set around that kind of progress would be incredibly frustrating. I know it is. I experience it frequently.
When I was younger and in high-school I would study math non-stop for hours. I never stopped being anything other than horrible at it. I grew to hate math. But as I got older I realize that was only a result of my experience. Of course there is nothing to hate about math, nothing to explain about how absurd that is, but myself and many others will hate all kinds of inanimate things because of our negative experiences with them. And truly that is a shame. Especially if you are, as I have been able to, look back with clarity. I would happily enjoy math if I could have only digested it better. Math is in so many ways our world, our world made into language. Look no further than video games to confirm this. Games are math. What a thing to hate. You might as well hate breathing.
I am a firm believer that talent is a fabrication of convenience for people who are not willing to practice what they love. Skill is not a mistake and those who achieve it rarely do so through grace. That said, I think it would be foolish to not acknowledge some degree that genetics play in our skill-sets. I, in that sense, have achieved something in the way of a case study, having studied math for impressively excruciating periods of time while still maintaining a mastery best described as hopeless. I must have some genetic pre-set that has helped me to elude success in math because I certainly gave as much time as would be required by brute force to improve and did not.
Could this technology be the answer for people like me who now understand they got off on the wrong foot with subjects like math? Could we now return to them and reconcile that relationship, resurrect from ash that burnt denial to enjoy one more experience that was barred to us prior. I know the technology has a long way to go before granting the sort of neural upgrade I have been witness to in the pages of fiction I so love. But it is coming. For now I am happy to see it at the start. Potential is to me as satisfying as an end result. It has had to be.