SuttaCentral

Implications of Neuralink’s technology in future of dhamma study


#1

Curious what the community’s opinions are about the recent presentation by Neuralink .

I heard about Neuralink last year and figured they were light years away from where they appear to already be today. Given their secrecy up until last week I was openly dismissive of them. Not so much now.

Could having the ability to hardwire Pāli literacy and unlimited wireless access to whole Nikāya of text directly to brain function be a huge step forward or a potential hindrance to the development of wisdom and liberation?

I am definitely on the fence, but am supremely curious how this tech will play out going forward into the 20’s-30’s and what the implications may be for the practitioner .
:anjal:


#2

This would be classed as an artificial stimulant and against the fifth precept, causing distraction.


#3

I’ve noticed that folks are experimenting with Muse headband for meditation . It’s interesting but introductory. I haven’t used my Muse headsets for anything in years.

As a general trend, technology has a tendency to reduce the potential of humankind. With cars we no longer walk and are generally afflicted with obesity from sedentary life. With computers we no longer see as well or far. With headphones, we suffer hearing loss. With Waze, we get lost without our phones. Delighting in the comfortable we suffer from diminished horizons, mistaking the flat screen TV for the Great Unknown.

Regarding Neuralink, well, it does make The Matrix seem prescient.

You have to let it all go, Neo…

And as Amy has said…

Having looked at too many computer screens, I can no longer read books. And now I have Amy, who has spoken much dhamma to me. Is that bad?


#4

Balancing the use of technology can be difficult. In your situation sir, I think you have benefited greatly. I think most would consider your usage skillful.

When it comes to this idea of implanted knowledge … seems to me just another way for someone to compete with others or to be the “know it all.” Of course there will be pros and cons, just like a smart phone. But there are plenty who will abuse it because many people are all about more, more, more.


#5

Huh?
surā meraya-majjapamādaṭṭhānā veramaṇī

I know people like to elaborate on this precept, but that is a leap, IMO, and it would have an equal potentiality for heedfulness and heedlessness unlike alcohol and recreational narcotics which have zero heedfulness potential.


#6

I wonder if similar things were said when the first monastics encountered the written word.


#7

Indeed, Socrates was famously against the written word as he saw it potentially stupefying people’s memory capacity.

A technology isn’t truly revolutionary unless it causes immense controversy, so they say. :grin:


#8

Maybe the concern is more towards the question of when knowledge becomes too detailed and transmutes itself into noise preventing the culmination in wisdom.

Or would Neuralink type technologies make effortless mental access to the whole canon of teachings free of the typical cluttering that comes with cramming your wetware brain with textual minutiae and open the flood gates to more rapid clear-comprehension? :thinking:


#9

He was right. It did. But we find the results worth the loss. It’s the same with the gps.


#10

Sort of. Memory is like a brain muscle and if it isn’t exercised it atrophies, but lack of need for immediate massive dialectical recall freed up people’s cortexes for more complex thinking and overtime knowledge became more detailed because the generalities were externally referenced without cognitive effort.
:anjal:


#11

Considering that a single discourse given to the right person, at the right time, on the right subject could be the impetus to cause sotapanna fruit that leads me to speculate that instantaneous mental digital access to the entire Sutta Pitaka could prove problematic. But the inverse could also be true depending on the individual.

:woozy_face:


#12

It’s cool, and all, but here is Musk in 2015:

Some grains of salt are warranted.


#13

I think that Musk believes - and the underlying philosophy behing NureaLink’s work is based on the belief - that consciousness is an epiphenomenon of the brain. If this premise is false - as I think it is, and certainy Buddhism considers it to be false, then I am not sure whether their work can really achieve anyting very meaningful.


#14

That’s certainly the assumption behind the research.

Having a false theory, if it is so, doesn’t necessarily mean that there won’t be any useful results; no theory is perfect, but they still may give useful results.

The problem, as I see it, is that when you have a reductive theory of mind, you end up only paying attention to the things your theory explains, and anything else is silently ignored. Then even partial success is seen as a confirmation of the theory, and failures are merely indications that more development is needed.

This kind of thing may happen, but I think there are much more realistic and insidious probabilities.

The first thing is: if your mind (or brain or whatever) is hooked up to a computer, everyone will know what is going on inside your head. Forget any assumptions about privacy, as soon as you do this, the working assumption must be that any entity, whether government or commercial, can and probably will have access to whatever these things measure. Of course, what they are actually measuring is electric impulses in the brain, but fine, let’s call them “thoughts” for the sake of the argument.

The next step, and it will not be very long at all, is: they will monitor your thoughts and try to change them. Wellness apps will advise you to calm down when you’re angry. Ads will appear when you think of pizza. Governments will detect dissident thoughts and suppress them or imprison you.

Did you notice the bit where they said “read and write”? Yeah. Writing thoughts into your brain. I’m sure governments won’t do anything creepy with that.

I like my brain, and I’ll keep it my own, thanks. :brain:


#15

The Buddha said that there are those who will reject the dhamma no matter what, so I don’t think any technology will overcome that. He also said that there are those who accept the dhamma no matter what, and then those who accept the dhamma without even needing to hear it (Probably referring to Pacceka Buddhas).

Basically, if you cannot attain path by simply hearing the dhamma (hearing as in thoughts in your head, because when you read you verbalize), then nothing else matters. Hearing (aka thinking) is the effect of a neural link, the sounds and sights are the causes :slight_smile:


#16

For sure!!

Imagine getting malware software unintentionally uploaded to your brain interface. The horror of it all.

Musk is infamous for his over-promise-under-deliver technique at Tesla, but my gut tells me this is different, much more so than even Space-X. I could be totally wrong, but the potential financial windfall for a versatile Neuralink type tech is certainly first in serious medical applications: like being a super-charged cochlear implant for Parkinson’s or CTE. Whomever cracks this first could likely become the first trillionaire. I imagine people are lining for job interviews and wannabe investors are trying to throw money at them.


#17

I accidentally damaged my ear drum by scratching my ear too hard, now I have a permanent tone sound whenever I yawn or stretch that’s really annoying. Imagine what could happen sticking micro electrodes in your brain. No thanks. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.


#18

Yeah. The iWatch creeps me out already and it’s still an external device. Having a watch that reads you more than you read it is unnerving for me. I still wear a traditional mechanical watch without any electronics.

This Neuralink type tech is potentially a couple of decades out, but the generation of adoption likely won’t have the same hang-ups as those born in the 20th century.


#19

Perhaps Neuralink will help the blind see again. Such a gift would be appreciated. And it would require writing.

Amusingly, it would also provide instant restraint via … unplugging. :wink:


#20

It looks like an attempt to keep humans relevant in a world that is increasingly controlled by AI. I’m not sure that our future silicon overlords will want to interface with us puny humans. Still, I guess they may need some leisure time, so getting humans to do silly walks may amuse them while they plan their intergalactic expansion … I’ve maybe watched too much sci fi in my life. :wink: