Inside What Could Be The Next Level Of Luxury Tech

  • Lauren deLisa Coleman
  • Tech

Last week the technorati was a buzz about new possibilities to actually connect one's brain to a computer in the near future.  Elon Musk, futurist and founder behind Tesla and Space X, revealed plans via livestream to enable such capability by implanting chips via surgery in order to create what Musk, a fervent detractor of the potential ills of AI, calls "symbiosis with artificial intelligence."

Such is the mission of Musk's additional venture Neuralink Corporation.

While current federal approval processes for implanted neural devices is nothing short of a long and quite daunting labyrinth, Musk insisted that Neuralink's first prototype could actually be implanted in a person by the end of next year.

But many seem to wonder just how many people might sign up for such a procedure, particularly by, for all intents and purposes, a startup.

Founded only three years ago, Neuralink is barreling toward its goal to create ultra-high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect humans and computers. While part of the company's focus is to alleviate chronic medical conditions through such surgery, Musk also stated during the last week's announcement  that the company's vision is to also help preserve and enhance one's own brain and “create a well-aligned future.” Yet there are a great number of concerns about these endeavors including what such super-human cognition would entail, how equitable distribution of such capabilities would happen and what moral implications and legal issues are around such new innovations.

 The tone of many articles discussing inserting an actual chip into the brain via a two-millimeter incision was not nearly as upbeat as that of Musk. But what truly matters in public sentiment.

Now that there's been a bit of fall out after the announcement, one of the most immediate business questions is, "is there an actual buyer for this product beyond what the media elite believes?"

So I decided to do a study with GlobalWebIndex, a market research company that provides audience insight across 46 countries to the world’s largest brands, marketing agencies and media organizations, in order to test drive Musk's offering. Some of the findings might surprise you.

First, we focused on nearly 1500 respondents.  They were Internet users age 16-64. Just a few questions were asked with a shortlist of possible answers from which to choose.

  1. When asked about how respondents felt about implantable technology, overall, the breakdown was as follows.
  2. I need more info before I form an opinion  - 21%
  3. I’m strongly against it  - 23%
  4. I’m slightly against it  - 9%
  5. I’m neither for nor against it  - 19%
  6. I’m slightly in favor of it - 15%
  7. I’m strongly in favor of it - 14%

As we can see, at least from this group, what might be expected as an overwhelming "nay" is far from the case.

Now, when we asked what respondents biggest concern was about implantable technology, responses were as follows:

  1. Impact on privacy - 52%
  2. Safety of procedure  -46%
  3. Lack of information about the implications - 44%
  4. Potential damage to how we interact with other people - 40%
  5. Impact on social equality - 36%
  6. Other - 10%
  7. None of the above - 9%

Privacy coming in at number one echoes growing concerns over personal information, location and more is a major concern for the tech-savvy. Previously reports had shown that Millennials had little or no concerns about privacy, but clearly an 80+ million demographic can never be categorized in total.

Finally, we asked, "What is most appealing about implantable technology?"  The responses and percentages are as follows:

  1. Prospect of potential health benefits -  40%
  2. Helping to optimize bodily functions  - 33%
  3. Prospect of making day-to-day activities more convenient - 29%
  4. Prospect of increasing/optimizing human psychological capabilities (i.e. memory) -  27%
  5. None of the above  - 28%
  6. Prospect of increasing/optimizing human physical capabilities  - 26%
  7. Other  - 5%

So what does this all mean? For one, that at least these respondent are a little more adventurous than one might think about this emerging tech space. There are concerns about the physical procedure and implications but invasion of privacy on a whole new level supersedes even these issues. Is the answer to frightening challenges about AI to actual connect our already flawed selves to it or is the best route to focus further on how both artificial intelligence and natural intelligence be used to create greater good. These will be some of the greatest questions of our time, but one thing seems to be sure. The old adage that cautions on us to keep your thoughts to ourselves might soon be just a thing of the past.

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