An idea long restricted to the realm of science fiction could soon be going live within the next five years. The idea? A plan to augment human brains with a technological upgrade that grants “superintelligence” to those who can afford it.
Enter the “brain chip”–a concept that could vastly increase the gap between those considered elite and, well, the rest of us.
Dr. Moran Cerf, a neuroscientist and business professor at Northwestern University, is working alongside some of Silicon Valley’s top names–who actually remain nameless at the moment–to make implantable “smart” chips for your brain a reality.
Speaking to CBS Chicago, Cerf explained that the “brain chips,” which are largely in the conceptual stage, would “make it so that it has an internet connection, and goes to Wikipedia, and when I think this particular thought, it gives me the answer.”
Continuing, he explains:
“Everyone is spending a lot of time right now trying to find ways to get things into the brain without drilling a hole in your skull… Can you eat something that will actually get to your brain? Can you eat things in parts that will assemble inside your head?”
Cerf also believes that those with boosted smarts (thanks to the brain chip) would have an IQ of roughly 200–about double the average IQ and a 35 percent increase over a genius-level IQ score of 140.
“They can make money by just thinking about the right investments, and we cannot; so they’re going to get richer, they’re going to get healthier, they’re going to live longer,” Cerf explained.
But Cerf is also aware of the risks of the concept. By creating technologically-boosted and vastly more capable minds, one risks exacerbating the already sharp social inequalities that exert themselves along the lines of gender, race and ethnicity, and social class.
Last November, a group of 27 neuroscientists underscored their concern over the disruptive potential of such new technologies in a letter to scientific journal Nature, when they wrote:
“The technology could also exacerbate social inequalities and offer corporations, hackers, governments or anyone else new ways to exploit and manipulate people … And it could profoundly alter some core human characteristics: private mental life, individual agency and an understanding of individuals as entities bound by their bodies.”
While around 40,000 people already have some type of brain chip in their heads, the augmentation primarily serves medical purposes and is only authorized for that purpose.
But what will happen to us when those who can afford it–including those who are truly ignorant and/or malignant–can afford a significant upgrade to their mental capacity?