It is really hard to go online these days and not run into some crazy conspiracy theory, the most absurd of which is that a Covid-19 vaccine is a plot by Bill Gates to put microchips in all of us. Seriously. This is what a growing number of people believe.
As a science fiction writer, I have a lot of respect for science. That means information from credible sources and peer reviewed studies, not crazy theories concocted by some guy on Facebook. So no, Bill Gates is not out to microchip you through a Covid vaccine.
But, will we end up with microchips in our brains one day? Yes, I think it’s inevitable.
Elon Musk, unlike Bill Gates, really does want to put a chip in your brain. His company, Neuralink, has created a brain implant the size of 4 1-dollar coins containing 1,024 electrodes that in the future might allow someone to control anything digital, be it a computer or a Tesla.
Musk’s prototype has sensors for motion, temperature and pressure, and its 1,024 wires can pick up the electrical signals your brain’s neurons generate.
In a recent demo, Musk showed off a pig with the brain implant that could transmit wireless signals. That’s still a long way off from human cyborgs, but still pretty cool.
Musk says that in the future his Neuralink would be able to record and replay memories, save them to external storage, and download them into a robot body. He also predicts that those with the implants could communicate telepathically.
Now that is interesting when you consider how inefficient language really is. For example, if you want to say the word “cat”, you first have to see a cat in your mind, the “sound image”, and then you code it with the word “cat”, which you send to the recipient. That person then decodes the word “cat” in his mind and comes up with his own "sound image" of whatever he thinks the word "cat" looks like.
But what kind of cat is it? What color is its fur? How big is it? And so on.
With an implant, however, you could simply send the image of the cat you see, which is far more efficient and leaves little room for misinterpretation.
In fact, it is entirely possible that evolved telepathic communication would eventually do away with language altogether, at least in the way we know it.
The benefits of a sophisticated brain implant are immeasurable. Imagine having access to any information you desired with a mere thought. Sound farfetched? It’s really not.
We all currently augment our brains with our smart phones and computers. Don’t know something? Pull your phone out of your pocket and look it up.
In a few years, phones will gradually be replaced by smaller, wearable computers. It seems inevitable that implants will one day be the norm.
If we combine brain implants with advances like quantum computing and AI, the discoveries we could make are endless. Imagine the leaps in medicine and science. Could cancer be cured once and for all? Could the interstellar travel of science fiction become a reality?
Of course, there are legitimate fears regarding brain implants. Like any computer, you might get hacked. Security, then, would be of prime importance.
The government might read your thoughts and find out that you really can’t stand its hypocrisy. That’s particularly dangerous if you live in a country that doesn’t value individual freedoms.
But it’s not just dictatorships we need to worry about. What if a random thought could get you into real legal trouble?
You might think something but never say it. Well, what if you think someone is a crook and that thought slipped out? Could you get sued over it? What if you lusted after one of your coworkers? Could that thought get you fired?
What if some thoughts were considered crimes? How do you stop yourself from accidentally thinking about something? Would legislation force your implant to block you from having certain illegal thoughts?
The potential problems with such a technology seem endless. But are they deal breakers? Maybe. Still, as with any advancement, there are risks and rewards. In this case, the rewards may very well surpass the risks.
So, is a Covid-19 vaccine going to microchip you? No. Absolutely not. Step away from the Kool Aid. Will Elon Musk get us all implanted? I seriously doubt it. Will our descendants use brain implants in the same way we use smart phones? Yes, I think that future is inevitable.
G.P. Hudson is the author of The Pike Chronicles and Fall of The Terran Empire