Elon Musk, the man of moonshots, is at it again. After all, he is a glutton for pushing the envelope of possibility. He just launched a new startup called Neuralink to explore “neural lace” technology — electronic brain implants or neuroprosthetics that would be able to interact with human thought. Oh, and nevermind that he’s got a lot on his plate already with Tesla, SpaceX and that giant tunnel under L.A.
The Wall Street Journal did some digging and found Musk has been gathering a suitable team of flexible and implantable electrodes experts and brain cognition scientists from a handful of large, research universities.
So this lofty idea might not be all talk. Vanity Fair quoted Musk that a partial brain interface is only 4 to 5 years out.
Is this a hairbrained idea?
Not totally. I would love a device that I could set to auto-pilot while doing repetitive tasks. Accountants are stuck with a lot of those, and artificial intelligence alone might not ever be able to handle the complexity of some of them.
Or, maybe, the device could continue working while I am sleeping? That’d be lovely.
In the short term, it makes sense to start out with medical uses (e.g., treating epilepsy or Parkinson’s disease) since people usually can get on board with that. But even the Journal agrees that what comes next is where it gets interesting. The article goes on:
If Neuralink can prove the safety and efficacy of technology it develops and receive government approval, perhaps it then could move on to cosmetic brain surgeries to enhance cognitive function, these people say. Mr. Musk alluded to this possibility in his comments last June, describing how humans struggle to process and generate information as quickly as they absorb it.
“Your output level is so low, particularly on a phone, your two thumbs just tapping away,” he said. “This is ridiculously slow. Our input is much better because we have a high bandwidth visual interface into the brain. Our eyes take in a lot of data.”
Can you toss in unlimited cloud storage?
Why not? The potential for this technology goes beyond increasing humankind’s ability to capture and intake data efficiently. For accountants, I see the real potential in the capacity to store large amounts of data and then quickly be able to access it. Who needs a photographic memory? Implant one of these puppies and you’re good for life.
For instance, imagine if you had the entire Internal Revenue Code or FASB Codification uploaded to your neural-lacing auxiliary storage device. You’d wow clients with your super-human abilities to remember GAAP verbatim. Pass the CPA exam with little effort studying. That would be great.
Win market share with your neuroprosthetic workforce!
As we look into the workforce of the future, what if companies started to spring for the procedure if it meant employees could be 5-10x more efficient?
Sure, I made up those numbers. But, if the efficiencies achieved were great enough, I imagine that employers could calculate a positive return on investment. Maybe we wouldn’t need to worry about that talent shortage after all.
Who cares if it never happens? And, perhaps it won’t since employees are simply creeped out about tracking. Plus, the company would own you since they would lose their entire investment if you left the company.
Would you be up for it? I don’t know if I would want my firm to have a direct tap into my brain. They might not want to know what I was thinking half the time. Plus, I had enough trouble with bring your own device (BYOD) when I left Big 4. I wouldn’t want them wiping my brain to protect sensitive client information.
Oh, and that’s just the ethical/privacy stuff. Did I mention the stakes if the implant doctor screws up on your elective brain surgery and oh, you know, you end up brain dead, or just dead? No thanks, but then again, I suppose if you can get people to sign up to colonize Mars and never come back, I am sure someone would be willing to be the human guinea pig. You would be a pioneer after all, and if it works as advertised, it would be amazing.