Connecting Brains to Computers Is a Shortcut to Dystopia
If we expect the right to free political thought, and want to prevent corporations from controlling our minds, we need a robust A.I. policy framework now
Co-authored by Susan Schneider
It’s 2045. You stroll into the Center for Mind Design. There you can purchase a brain chip to augment your intelligence or a bundle of several such chips. People wishing for savant-like mathematical abilities can purchase the “Human Calculator” chip while those in the market for supreme serenity now can buy “Zen Garden.” And that’s just the beginning. Enhanced attention, virtuoso musical abilities, telepathy to directly experience other augmented people’s thoughts, and so much more are all there for the choosing. Which would you pick?
If you’re unsure, how about mulling it over with a philosopher? Or two.
Evan Selinger is a professor of philosophy at Rochester Institute of Technology and co-author of Re-Engineering Humanity. Susan Schneider is the NASA-Baruch Blumberg chair in astrobiology and technological innovation at NASA and the Library of Congress and author of the new book Artificial You: A.I. and the Future of Your Mind. The following edited excerpt contains highlights of our conversation.
A.I. in your head
Evan: I’m impressed by the New York Times series Op-Eds from the Future. By crafting fictional opinion pieces on hypothetical situations that could happen 10–100 years from now, writers are freeing up our conceptual and moral imaginations so we can see the present with new eyes. I even used the model as the basis of a writing assignment in my surveillance seminar so that students could critically consider how pressing, contemporary problems concerning privacy and power might intensify or improve.
Your contribution to the series—“Should You Add a Microchip to Your Brain?”—depicts a future where advances in A.I. create a sense of desperation among the unemployed masses, leading them to consider purchasing brain chips to enhance their cognitive abilities and alter their emotional dispositions. Why should we care about this type of scenario now?