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Opinion | Elon Musk's Neuralink puts human nature at risk and this is terrifying

Although at first glance Neuralink seems like a step into a dystopian of endless possibilities. James Sinclair explores how Elon's invention drifts humanity into a course away from human nature

By James Sinclair, First Year, Politics and International Relations

The idea of somebody planting a chip into our brain is, at the very least, an uncomfortable thought. Our imaginations conjure images of a dystopian world. It feels unnatural, and it is. The development of this kind of tech - while bringing major benefits to some of the most vulnerable in society - makes us question the kind of world we want to live in. One that values our humanity and limitations, or one that does not? 

When Elon Musk tweeted in late January that the first successful implant of his new Neuralink technology had taken place, the internet did what it does best. It exploded with memes and jokes that poked fun at the sheer weirdness of it all, and while hilarious, they revealed a deeper anxiety surrounding this type of technology. Jokes about hackers and the idea of music being stuck on a loop in our heads – this puts a new meaning to a song being stuck in your head. One person tweeted ominously that, “the merge has officially begun". They show discomfort about this strange development, seeing a merger between human and machine as crossing a red line. 

This goes alongside Musk’s Bond villain-like statements surrounding the wider intentions of Neuralink to merge humans and AI to keep up with the development of AI. While humans of course need to adapt to the rapidly advancing tide of AI sweeping the globe, there is something lacking humanity in what Musk claims is needed. He looks at people in terms of productivity, needing to become part computer to keep up with the advancing world.  

 It is like Musk sees humans as not strong enough to be sustainable, needing to be upgraded, a kind of forced evolution. But really, it is okay to have limits to our minds, that is what makes us human, our flaws being integral to forming our rounded characters and personalities. If we had the power of a computer in each of our heads 24/7, then these flaws would become steadily eroded over time. As technology becomes increasingly advanced, and humans become more synced raises the question: would we even be human anymore? 

And despite the suspicions of the public now, if these chips were to become mainstream then people would snatch them up like the latest phone. People just cannot get enough of technology that makes their lives easier, look at the explosion of smartphones and social media over the past decade, an idea that would have seemed ludicrous decades earlier. The prospect of being able to telepathically order food would be too good for many people to resist if the opportunity arose. But these are not meaningful advancements for humans, simply making us increasingly lazy and disconnected from each other. The rise of social media and the resulting mental health issues warn us of the dangers of screen addiction. If the screen was inside of your head 24/7, then the problem can only get unimaginably worse, depriving us of that time away from technology that we desperately need for a healthy lifestyle.  

brown paper bag on gray concrete floor
Photo by Jon Tyson / Unsplash

The development of technology should be focussed on helping those who need it, one of its major benefits being to assist paralysed people in regaining use of their limbs again. This was seen with a Dutch man in 2023 whose implants managed to beam instructions to his limbs, allowing him to walk again. This is amazing, technology allowing him to regain parts of himself he thought he had lost forever, advancements that help benefit us as people, allowing this man to experience things he thought he would never experience again.  

Because of this point, technology should only advance to a point where it assists us in what we want as humans, such as happiness, friendships, and making memories. Once technology develops to a point where these kinds of things become hindrances to the rapidly accelerating world, then it has officially gone too far. If humanity has developed a world in which humanity as it exists is unable to compete, then something has gone seriously wrong.  

Elon Musk should realise this and try to use his immense power to try and change the system and control the development of AI, something that he has described as a “risk” to humanity. It makes little sense as to why he would want to merge humans with something that he fears could endanger people.  

Regardless, Elon Musk has seemingly decided that throwing our human nature into question is the best way to compete in the world we are on course for. And if that is not a sign to change course, then I do not know what is.  

Featured image: Growtika // Unsplash