Weekly Brief: Insane in the mem-brain?

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Mind-reading tech is closer than you think. In July, Elon Musk announced that one of his companies, Neuralink, will start human trials by the end of 2020 for an implantable wireless system that purports to read minds. It already has over $158m in funding. Facebook is also working on a mind-reading headset, and has made big breakthroughs recently as Facebook-backed UCSF scientists have just demonstrated that it’s possible to use brain-wave technology to decode speech. Even Nissan have waded into the fray – their Brain-to-Vehicle Technology will enable vehicles to interpret signals from the driver’s brain, potentially redefining how people interact with their cars.

These developments are exciting… but they’re also terrifying. They could prove revolutionary (in a positive way!) for people with paralysis and other neurological disorders. In fact, Neuralink’s current goal is to create devices that, once implanted, enable people to control practically any device with their minds. This could drastically improve the lives of patients with debilitating physical limitations and usher in a new era of modern medicine. But, should we be wary of embracing mind-reading technology with open arms? If it’s not properly monitored and regulated the consequences could be devastating. Imagine a world where governments, corporations and even your boss (!) knew your innermost thoughts and feelings! Pretty scary. Who would own ‘brain data’ and what if ‘brainhacking’ became commonplace? The very idea of hackers gaining control of people’s brains and modifying them sounds like it should be the plot of a dystopian movie, but it’s a very real possibility in our lifetime. Pacemakers have been hacked before… so why not neural-implants? 

So what’s the general takeaway? We need to proceed. with . caution. If used correctly and ethically, mind-reading technology could positively impact millions of people, but if used incautiously it could wreak global havoc. At Work in Startups, we love innovation and disruption in start ups – but we must innovate and disrupt responsibly! 

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