We also talked about the potential risks.
“There’s the risk of bugs in hardware or software,” says Naam. “There’s the risk of malware or viruses that infect this. There’s the risk of hackers being able to break into the implants in your head. We’ve already seen hackers demonstrate that they can remotely take over pacemakers and insulin pumps. The same risks exist here.”
But the big societal risk, says Naam, stems entirely from the question of who controls this technology.
“That’s the central question I ask in Nexus,” he says. “If we all have brain implants, you can imagine it driving a very bottom’s up world — another Renaissance, a world where people are free and creating and sharing more new ideas all the time. Or you can imagine it driving a world like that of 1984, where central authorities are the ones in control, and they’re the ones using these direct brain technologies to monitor people, to keep people in line, or even to manipulate people into being who they’re supposed to be. That’s what keeps me up at night.”
Warwick, on the other hand, told me that the “biggest risk is that some idiot — probably a politician or business person — may stop it from going ahead.” He suspects it will lead to a digital divide between those who have and those who do not, but that it’s a natural progression very much in line with evolution to date.
In response to the question of privacy, Sandberg quipped, “Privacy? What privacy?”
Our lives, he says, will reside in the cloud, and on servers owned by various companies that also sell results from them to other organizations.
“Even if you do not use telepathy-like systems, your behaviour and knowledge can likely be inferred from the rich data everybody else provides,” he says. “And the potential for manipulation, surveillance and propaganda are endless.”Our cloud exoselves
Without a doubt, the telepathic noosphere will alter the human condition in ways we cannot even begin to imagine. The Noosphere will be an extension of our minds. And as David Chalmers and Andy Clark have noted, we should still regard external mental processes as being genuine even though they’re technically happening outside our skulls. Consequently, as Sandberg told me, our devices and “cloud exoselves” will truly be extensions of our minds.
“Potentially very enhancing extensions,” he says, “although unlikely to have much volition of their own.”
Sandberg argues that we shouldn’t want our exoselves to be too independent, since they’re likely to make mistakes in our name. “We will always want to have veto power, a bit like how the conscious level of our minds has veto on motor actions being planned,” he says.
Veto power over our cloud exoselves? The future will be a very strange place, indeed.