In a “twenty-questions” style interview with author Michael Grant over at The Guardian, I was struck by his answer to the final question:
What piece of technology would you most like to own?
I want a Google chip implanted in my brain. Wire up my cerebrum. I’m perfectly serious. I want all access, all the time.
Now, despite his protestations of seriousness, I rather suspect he’s exaggerating for effect. But even so, I found myself wondering whether I’d go for such a connection myself, if the opportunity arose. Let’s assume for a moment (and not too hypothetically) that such an always-on link could be achieved without surgical intervention – high-powered wearable computing, wireless broadband link, some sort of cyberpunk data-shades assemblage for interface, all that jazz. Is it still as transgressive and extreme an idea if you could just take it all off when ever you chose to? After all, I already spend upwards of ten hours a day connected to the internet*; the technological leap to being able to do so without having to be here at my desk seems like a small skip of convenience from where I’m sitting right now.
Now, imagine that Grant’s implants actually existed – how differently would a person with such capabilities interact with the world, and with other people? Would they have something of the autist or savant about them, or would instantaneous access to the knowledge and conversation of the web enhance their abilities to socialise? What work would they do (or want to do), and what jobs would they be denied?
Sure, these are all established questions that arise from reading cyberpunk literature – but to be kicked into that mode of thinking by a throwaway line in an interview with a YA author? It’s a weird wired world, and no mistake.
[ * – Yes, I know it shows. Be nice. ]
10 thoughts on “Would you sign up for direct-to-brain broadband?”
Hey…I know several geeks who would be perfectly serious about that request, so don’t laugh too hard.
Not so sure I would do it just for search. I would do it without hesitation if it increased my intelligence even a little bit…obviously we aren’t there yet.
Why stop there? I’d like much more capability than just a brain-based high-speed internet connection. Once we are able to wire chips into our brains, I’d like to connect a variety of components, including multiple high-speed CPUs, huge amounts of RAM, unlimited non-volatile data storage, and more. And how about some instant language translation software wired into my speech and comprehension centers, to let me communicate easily with anyone? And in regard to improved senses, I wouldn’t mind being able to receive radio, TV, and other broadcasts, as well as leverage infrared and night vision technology. In summary, I want all of Star Trek’s Borg technology, but with none of the Borg Collective, thank you! Now… that doesn’t make me a geek, does it? It does? Well, I can live with that, too.
I’d consider it, were I not utterly convinced of the likelihood that my brain would be inundated with spam.
Our ordinary, low-bandwidth connection to other humans — language — has tremendous security advantages over any kind of direct interface. This is the theme of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash. Since computer security is a perpetually open problem, I wouldn’t want to stake my cognitive privacy on it.
Most people who installed a technology like this would be owned as quickly as unpatched Windows boxes.
I’d do it provided I could leave my email on a separate machine… and that none of the components were made by Microsoft. And I have to confess that I sometimes get frustrated when I’m reading a (physical) book or newspaper and come across an unfamiliar word, and there’s no built-in dictionary or wikipedia to instantly solve the problem.
I’d like one, but then I’d also like the “puts you on autopilot when nothing exciting’s going on” implant from Cory Doctorow’s Visit the Sins.
Of course the bottleneck of ordinary human communication is an old sci-fi theme. In a more expansive moment in Second Foundation, Asimov gives baseline humans’ inability to ever truly know each other as a reason for the fall of the first Empire.
You don’t need any chip implanted in your brain – neuron reading and writing has been, it seems likely, happening since 1810 as shocking and crazy as that sounds. One key was developing dust-sized particle communication devices that can fly. Search for neuron reading and writing – I’ve done a lot of research into it – for example over the last 200 years many people have hinted about it – Andre Maurois, Bermhard Katz, William Crookes, there are many others.
It would be nice to get direct-to-brain windows – to get sound directly to our ear without needing a headphone – you can see how this would be much more convenient – especially to see every person’s thought-screen – the image they think of – you would know who is a good match for you.
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