Artwork: Humana Mechanica -We Build From and To the Stars, by Sheri Walton Kennedy, 18 x 24, Magazine Collage, 1997.
Along with instruction on better writing, a huge benefit of attending Norwescon is the exchange of ideas – especially in the speculative panels. Here are my notes with some of the thoughts and opinions from:
“Brain Prosthesis and Mind Control.”
Panelists: David Shoemaker, PJ Manney, Jake McKinzie
David: If you got this tech too early, imagine the upgrades you would need. He would have got it if they would have let him when it was introduced at his company in research. It would have had only 10GB storage! Easy upgrades will need to be solved.
How does the privacy issue relate to having a brain fused to internet or pre-programmed software messages?
Jake: Privacy doesn’t exist already…
PJ: Many don’t care about privacy and feel the benefits are worth it. She thinks there will be a break into groups of those who want this and those who resist or protest.
David: Doesn’t care about privacy…until it is his passwords. He’s always been extremely honest – but believes he’s high-functioning sociopath.
Jake: You don’t have to use the internet…But what happens if it’s in your brain, and pretty much everything you need to do you have to be plugged in? Perhaps employers will require it. What happens to choice?
PJ: That’s why it will take a long time – need security etc. Therapeutic is great and can’t get here fast enough, but she thinks ‘social’ brain prosthetics will come much slower because of concerns about security.
David: Would stand in line to pay big bucks to get it installed on a dirty table, and he thinks the ragged edge like this will be the beginning of it.
All agree: Our larger society doesn’t want it yet. (At least Western society…see below.)
Jake: Wonders if society will reject those who do it early as too strange to hire, etc.
David: People rejected tattoos, body mods, etc., but they get increasingly accepted over time as numbers rise and more types of people get it done.
PJ: Society has always resisted tech that seems to help us become something we’re not already…Against nature, blah blah. For example, birth control, invitro fertilization, etc. But the tech eventually comes through when a high figure or enough fringe people accept it.
Jake: Don’t forget US/Western etc. have a very different and perhaps more progressive view on accepting these types of changes. (my note: affluence – if closer to survival level don’t have time or resources to risk such things.)
PJ: What is ‘transhuman’? There’s a sliding line… Phone – if in head, how different is that? To her not too much. We already enhance our knowledge and memory etc. with it always at our fingertips.
Jake: Improves human being with something you can’t pass along to your children. You are not improving the human condition. They don’t really learn to problem solve on their own etc. so if tech is lost they would be less fit for survival. (my note: not sure I agree because of enhanced information processing leaving knowledge permanently. Depends on where the faster gained info is stored. If still to brain memory then potentially passes to children.)
David: Remember things can regress – like anti-vaccination movement following near removal of serious disease threats.
PJ: Thinks that’s fear of change, fear of control.
David: Says Googleglass scared people because it looked too much like glasses. So people think it can spy or sneak behind them. He thinks if tech is overt like large halogoggles, people accept it much more readily.
PJ: Snap spectacles are working fine. They are cute…non-threatening. She doesn’t see a backlash about that.
Jake: Depends on environment – On CA beach, ok, but in Classroom?
David: Thinks it will come anyway. Cameras everywhere already anyway.
Jake: Difference of it being in your brain is you have no privacy of thoughts.
David: That’s fine.
Jake: But you’ve made that choice, David. What if there is a time when you no longer have a choice? Boss knowing exactly what you’re thinking. Will those kind of things be a problem?
David: What about a hack…
PJ: Data analytics – They can just about read your mind through what you search and purchase and post already, and then they craft a message toward your micro-group.
Audience: OK, but if they hit me with their ad or propaganda online I can sift it, but I don’t want them to literally put thoughts into my mind.
PJ: They already do…Fox News etc. They receive about 5 talking points that they must say, and everyone on that whole station hits those points all day.
Jake: But you wouldn’t just be brainwashed by given information, they could literally put thoughts in directly without your knowledge or any chance of screening.
PJ: Not much difference. Brainwashing is very effective.
Audience: KJB has a bunch of just ‘guys on the internet’ that do the same type of talking points, but people don’t have filters like they do for big media. Other groups influence in the same manner.
What will be the path of the infiltration of implant tech?
David: Thinks first step will be putting ‘phones’ into our head. Only real holdback is the powering system. As soon as that’s solved it will be on the market. It will just be access to another data stream method without having to carry it.
PJ: Believes it will start from medical implants first. Her speculative stories are about the idea of therapeutic then turned to augmentations. Cyborgization of Memory. Memory very well may be first brain prosthetics. Already working on mesh on a micro or nano scale that’s injected over the cranium – sends messages across. So if you can’t remember your thoughts… Jake finishes: We can remember them for you ALSO. (It has to be stored somewhere that can be hacked or used by others. Yikes…almost everyone feels). PJ: Aims for fixing dementia oriented diseases, and this will be sought after enough to set aside objections.
Jake: What about nanobots? How do we walk forward in a non-threatening way?
David: Thinks porn and money push tech advances. He believes there are people who would pay a lot to have porn direct to their brain etc. It will be researched and appear on the market soon.
PJ: Is not saying she wants it to happen, but she’s saying it’s inevitable, so we need to work hard to make it work. If you are afraid of the downside, don’t hide from it, work to help control it.
Figure out how to make it well-used.
Jake: Likes being an individual. He wants to make sure his daughter won’t be robbed of that individual choice. He’s worried that if she signs on to a tech that controls her she will lose her choice. If we regret it, will we be able to go back?
PJ: We will have early adopters and can watch what happens before most of society moves toward this tech.
Audience: Is there a set answer of whether this is good or bad?
All: No, but we should always keep asking.
PJ: Meditation is brain modification. But you can chose to do it, it’s not put upon you. Choice or lack of choice is really what we are talking about fearing. She reminds us that this is a cultural fear – In China they don’t have this fear of societal control and loss of the individual.
Jake: Points out we’ve been at least influenced or even controlled by religious ideas, political ideas etc. But in US we expect individuality.
What do you think?