Are We About to Become The Borg?
The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Q Who, first aired May 8, 1989, introduced a new race into the Star Trek universe called The Borg. The term, of course, is a shorted version of the cyborg. Cyborg was a word coined in the 1960s combining the words cybernetics and organism. Cybernetics had been defined in 1948 by American mathematician and philosopher Norbert Wiener. He defined it as "he scientific study of control and communication in the animal and the machine."
Even by 1989, when The Borg made their debut, the idea of merging the human mind and technology seemed like fanciful science fiction. The Borg are a hive-minded civilization of drones who own nothing, live in a cube-shaped ship with no accommodations except a small alcove, have no concept of the individual or freedom, and roam around the galaxy assimilating other species.
Fast forward to 2018 and we can now see The Borg on the horizon and likely The Borg is us. Don't believe me?
"Neurotechnology is where breakthroughs in electronics and neuroscience and algorithms are coming together to enable a new kind of seamless symbiosis between people and technology. It's going to exhilarate us. It's going to make us deeply uncomfortable and could even cause to reassess what it means to be human."
Arati Prabhakar, former Head of DARPA
In 2004, Robin Williams starred in a science fiction move titled The Final Cut. In the movie, a technology called The Zoe Implant had been invented that recorded every memory in a person's life so that it could be edited down to a presentation to the family at their death. Robin Williams plays the role of a "cutter." This person edits the memories from a person's life to capture the essence of who they are. Again, this seemed like utter science fiction just 14 years ago.
Note the discussion in this video about capturing a person's memory. This video also does a great job of showing how these technologies can help the disabled and the elderly experience a better quality of life. I'm not suggesting this technology is all bad or trying to be technophobes. I'm only suggesting we should enter this brave new world with eyes wide open, as it can be used for good or ill.
As my partner, Dennis Nappi II, has covered on The Seiker Podcast a number of times, Musk has determined that the only way to preserve any semblance of humanity is to merge us with AI. As the following video suggests, the alternative is for biological humanity to be relegated to the role of AI's pet.
Here's a question that I believe people like Mr. Musk are considering, though they might not be ready to say it in so many words. Could an end goal be to disembody intelligence?
Our bodies are fragile, weak, they get sick, they age, and they die. They consume vast resources on the Earth to survive. However, the brain, if it could be linked to technology, could survive indefinitely. The new combination could be disembodied intelligence drawing on the strengths of biological brains and artificial intelligence. Then it could be placed back into any automaton (like the Borg drone) for moving around the physical world. Every individual has total access to the sum knowledge of the hive.
How would our moral and social systems deal with an idea like that? How would you? I think it's worth noting that this is all being created without any legal or ethical framework to guide it. There's been no democratic decision to go down these roads - either directly from the people or their elected officials. It's almost as if we're driving down the road in a driverless car and everyone else assumes someone else is driving.
A recent popular movie series - Divergent - warned us about leaving our fate in the hands of the scientists and the technologists. The Erudite faction decides that it must take over because human weakness.
This technology can be used to help someone without hands touch the world again. It can also be used to push us toward a transhumanist future that we cannot predict and have not agreed to. The recent Mark Zuckerberg hearings about Facebook showed in spades that our leaders in DC don't know enough about technology to be effective arbiters or guardians for the people on these matters, assuming they even wanted to be.
We will be tantalized with visions of storing all of our memories like we store computer files today, removing our worst memories, or even the potential to live forever, but at what cost?
We must find a mechanism to get out in front of these changes or we may reach a point where "resistance is futile."
for 6 Sense Media