It is astonishing to see how the Internet transformed itself from its humble beginnings at the US Department of Defense’s ARPANET to its current form, an inseparable entity of modern human lives. The effects of the Internet have already been disrupting our economies and super-charging our societies. Something exceptional is happening though, which we often let fall between the cracks while we think about the Internet — the collective intelligence and cognitive enhancement potential of it. Let’s take a futuristic ride through the cracks to explore the endless possibilities of the Internet from this new perspective.
Elon Musk’s Neuralink, a medical research startup that is working on building high bandwidth human-machine interfaces made headlines last year. His idea is to create brain-computer interfaces called neural laces that can eventually help humans connect with AI. Though the concept behind Musk’s company might sound like straight out of a sci-fi movie, neural lacing is already being tested by many researchers. Kernel, a company founded by Braintree CEO Bryan Johnson is trying to create a neural lace that could help treat neurological disorders. To understand how the Internet is connected to all this, let’s step back and redefine the Internet.
We often consider the Internet as a global infrastructure that connects billions of computing devices. This only partially defines it. The Internet is an omnibus and a host to the collective intelligence of over 3 billion connected users. This very definition of the Internet could open doors to untouched boundaries such as an Internet Neural Lace. Imagine each connected computational device in the Internet being a neuron and the Internet itself being a super-brain. An Internet Neural Lace would connect this super-brain to a human brain via an AI system that mimics human intelligence. The cognitive function of such a cyborg would be millions of times more than a normal human brain. People can communicate ideas and information to other humans and machines just by thinking with their own brains. The possibilities are endless and the Internet would become ubiquitous just like computers already are.
Though this idea seems like an exciting future for the Internet, neuroscience, and humanity as a whole, the social and ethical implications of such a technology could be both beneficial and disastrous. We would see unimaginable advancements in a short period of time in the fields of arts, sciences and every other field of study. Economies would flourish and a lot of challenging problems would be solved. However, on the flip side, this could create an unfair skill gap by incorporating dramatic cognitive superiority to a specific section of people that have availability to this technology and the socio-economic consequences could be huge for those who cannot access it. More challenging problems would arise.
But just like any other disruptive technology, it is inevitable to stop this progression of the Internet into a cognitive capability enhancer. We wouldn’t want to stop it either because after all, humans are the greatest species. Hmm, or not.