Unintended consequences are the rule of the day for technologies that can vastly change human society. A great example of this is the home computer and the internet. While undoubtedly one of the most critical developments in the history of human technology, it also brought on the advent of hacking, for better or worse. We can say that a human, at least in some ways, can be seen as a kind of biological computer. Computers can do the math, but so can we. Computers are programmed; we are taught. Moreover, while there is currently much more to us than there are to networks, there come a day when computers will become virtually indistinguishable from their human counterparts, at least in their abilities.
However, at the same time, it seems likely that we will merge with our technology at some point. Eventually using it to enhance ourselves in ways ranging from having a PhD in physics implanted into our brains without having to attend a single class, or direct virtual reality connections to the internet all unfolding due to a chip embedded in our heads, or even telepathic candid mind to mind conversations.
If that’s the way things go, then one must wonder what the unintended consequences will be. Among those is the possibility of someone hacking your brain, and that may be possible sooner than you think. More on that in a minute.
Rudimentary forms of these technologies already exist, and research into improving them is moving faster than most people realize. For example, brain to computer interfaces has lived for some time. They fall into two general categories. The first is medical. These amazing technologies are already being employed to allow people with severe spinal injuries to move robotic arms, and even in some cases restoring some amount of sight for people with certain types of acquired blindness. Incredible, promising technologies to be sure! However, the other class is more recent and presents a dilemma; this is gaming and recreation; non-invasive interfaces can be used to control and enhance video games. Called Neurogaming, these interfaces use the player’s brainwave patterns, heart rate, and other indicators to change how its software is expressing the game. Neurogaming includes adjusting scenery and music depending on the mood of the player. Eventually, this will go much further and potentially allow the player to control the game entirely with their mind, and possibly someday enter it entirely in a full emersion brain-interfaced virtual reality mode
Another is the successful connection of a biological neuron with a computer chip, termed a neurochip. These are technologies that we already have, and no one is quite sure just how fast this field as a whole is progressing, and that opens us up for the unintended consequences. We will undoubtedly use these technologies to hack ourselves to varying degrees. Neuroscientist Chris Berka has found a method of monitoring the state of the brain where it becomes hyperfocused on a task, think of it as the state you are in when you are “in the zone.” This method allows Berka’s company to inform people when they are “in the zone” helping them “zone in” and improve their performance.
As technology advances, other hacks will become available to us. Current generations of prosthetics, for example, are growing quite advanced. There will come a day when those prosthetics surpass their biological counterparts. There may come a day, perhaps sooner rather than later, when disabled athletes in the Paralympics outperform organic athletes, no doubt creating ethical dilemmas when people wish to replace their healthy biological limbs with prosthetics. While that may seem a stretch, the human race generally speaking has been no stranger to body modification, and there’s no reason to suspect that’s going to change.
But, what of the possibility of someone else hacking into your brain? The answer to this question is complicated because we already do have ways of gaining unauthorized access to someone’s mind, such as brain-washing or propaganda. So it could be said that we’ve been hacking people’s minds for thousands of years. However, as too technologically doing so, it may not only be possible but may come far sooner than most realize. As technology advances, there seems to be little reason to doubt that eventually, it will be able to decipher people’s thoughts.
Rudimentary forms of that are already being experimented with, and in fact, one such experiment deciphered parts of people’s PINs and banking information. If this technology continues to improve, eventually your politics, religious beliefs, and just about everything else that goes on inside a human brain becomes visible to someone else. Hackers may use that technology to blackmail people, or worse. However, if we take all of these technologies a step further, it may someday be possible to not only eavesdrop on people’s minds but change them
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