Elon Musk recently announced a new company, Neuralink, which aims to make direct brain-to-computer communication possible in a closed loop. Your raw thoughts translated directly into a digital space, no fingers involved. To close the loop, the computer will be able to communicate directly with your mind, supposing they are successful.
This is a definite example of using systems instead of goals. If Neuralink is successful, the possible applications will be nearly endless. You would be able to translate your thoughts directly into an image, text, or any medium. But that’s just what happens with the outbound connection. What will happen when two people interface with Neuralink?
Currently, every person in North America has a cellphone. It is usually less than twenty seconds away from you, and often within arm’s reach. In part we are so addicted to our phones because of how much communication they enable. Communicating with other people is instinctively rewarding. The apps are probably secondary.
When you speak to someone face to face, or worse, send them a text message, a huge amount of meaning is lost in translation. You don’t realize it, but you can misinterpret pretty much any sentence. Everyone interprets a message their own way because we all have different knowledge stored in our minds. We’ve dealt with miscommunication pretty well as a species, since it is built-in to our experience. But that might be about to change.
Apple made over 215 billion dollars in 2016. That’s almost a quarter of a trillion dollars. What will happen to their company when Neuralink enables us to communicate exactly what we mean to each other, back and forth, in real time? Suppose you literally experienced my thoughts, and I experienced yours. We wouldn’t even need to look at each other.
Now you understand why Apple probably does not like what Neuralink intends to accomplish. Of course, it could be that Apple will lease Neuralink technology and integrate it into their phones. But it’s more interesting to imagine that Neuralink will crush them. It won’t happen in the next five years, but maybe ten.
Publicly, you can expect things to look like business as usual. But given Musk’s record of success, I’d wager at least a few Apple shareholders just shit their pants.