The Philosophy behind Neuralink: AKA The Jesus Noogie
The Neuralink device is a small chip, 1 inch in diameter, roughly the size of an apple watch. It would be implanted in the skull, after carving a hole into it. Tiny, thin wires would be physically connected to areas of the brain. The device would emit an electronic pulse, stimulating the brain.
On podcast episode #1470 of the JRE, Elon Musk said Neuralink could be used in a year.
Musk believes it would be capable of curing ailments and diseases, up too, and including, paralyses, blindness, deafness and epilepsy.
There is an aspiration to upload human consciousness to a neural net, like the internet, using the Neuralink device. This would render speech and writing irrelevant in “roughly 10 years”.
There are important philosophical and biological implications to consider here.
The Brain In The Vat
French philosopher Rene Descartes is famous for this quote:
“Je pense dans, je suis”
I think, therefore, I am
Included, within his work, is this question:
“Imagine you are a brain floating in a vat. Some unknown being attaches wires to it, using them to manipulate the electrical signals in your brain.
How would you know that were just a brain in vat?
How do you prove that you are not just a brain, in a vat, being stimulated, right now?”
Neuralink is this philosophical predicament applied in real time.
Need better eye sight?
Want better functioning toes?
Need to remember where you left your keys?
Musk’s faith in Neuralink’s incredible ability rests on this assumption:
There is nothing more, as far as you’re concerned, to your reality than the electrical signals in your brain.
This is an illuminating, and depressing line of thought.
When Jesus cured the blind in the town of Jericho, did he just stimulate the right section of their brains?
He didn’t have any electrodes or computer chips. I guess he used static electricity?
It turns out, there’s no problem that Jesus couldn’t fix with a good ol’ noogie.
If it is true that all that separates us from a better existence is jumpstarting the right spot on the brain, the way you would a dead car battery, why wouldn’t you line up to get hooked up?
Too good to be true? Maybe you think as I do.
Brains aren’t batteries.
If Neuralink is a success and human trials prove it is capable of halting epileptic seizures and returning motor function to paraplegic limbs, it will be an astounding victory for science.
It will be a big win for the world.
I’m sceptical of anyone, even Elon Musk, saying they can solve such problems by electrocuting brains.
It’s a phenomenal leap from shock therapy, to restoring limb function.
Equally phenomenal is the assertion that our conscious minds fall under the same umbrella.
And if we’re going to be electrocuting our brains, shouldn’t we acknowledge how little we understand about them first?
The Issue of Consciousness
Doctors, neurologists and biologists can tell you the associate functions of each area of the brain.
The prefrontal cortex performs executive functions, like focusing attention, making predictions, controlling impulses and planning.
The back of brain holds our optics. That’s why, when you hit the back of your head, you may experience a flash of bright lights.
Different areas associate with smell, taste, touch, memory etc.
One thing is left out; consciousness.
Not an easy thing to define. Arguably it is our defining characteristic. Consciousness is noticeably absent on sciences map of the human brain. Scientists can’t point to a place on the brain, or human body for that matter, and state, with certainty,
“You see that right there? That’s where consciousness comes from”
We don’t know where it is.
We don’t know how to define it.
We don’t know.
Most likely, it’s in the brain. For all science knows, my consciousness is located in the tip of my penis.
Men have often been accused of thinking with their little heads. Now we know why.
My point, it’s as good a theory as any.
Consider how little we understand about the organ that named itself.
Sure, maybe we’ve mapped out enough terrain to understand what’ll happen if we kick the correct corners of the cranium.
That doesn’t mean we’ve unravelled the mystery of the brain… right?
And we’re just going to start shocking it?
Frankly, I won’t be getting in line.
The lack of detail regarding the inner workings of my neurology is a factor.
As is my unwillingness to let any man dictate, to me, the nature of my reality.
Even Elon Musk.