Saturday, July 25, 2020

Neuralink: Elon Musk’s quest to achieve a symbiosis of Brain and Artificial Intelligence

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Hardi Talwani

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Neuralink: Elon Musk’s quest to achieve a symbiosis of Brain and Artificial Intelligence


Global Views 360

Publication Date

July 25, 2020


Elon Musk introducing Neuralink | Source: ApolitikNow via Flickr

The memory of using YouTube for the first time is still clearly etched in my mind. One day we heard the sound of a song coming from the other room, startled by the noise, my brother and I went to investigate. We saw our father surfing in the wondrous world of YouTube where you could play any song without having to buy CDs anymore. It just bewildered us.

What Elon Musk claimed recently shows the distance technology has covered since then. He made headlines recently claiming that  his latest innovation Neuralink,will make it possible to, streaming music directly into our mind. Yes, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX is back with the new episode of ‘Science fiction turned into reality.”

Musk describes Neuralink as a medium for a symbiosis of Brain with Artificial intelligence. The human brain is essentially an astonishingly powerful supercomputer which runs on power equivalent to the one used in a 20Watt electric bulb.

What Musk wants to do through Neuralink is to fit a tiny chip inside our brain, which can download all the processed information which is travelling from neuron to neuron. This chip with some threads that have the diameter of about tenth of human hair will have the potential to record and stimulate neurons across different brain areas. A Neuralink designed robot will fit electrodes containing threads using sewing technology into the brain. The technology is wireless, so at least you do not have to worry about wires hanging from your head.

Neuralink, launched as a Medical enterprise in 2016, aims to fix blindness, motor abilities, speech and much more. Although the purpose seems benevolent at first glance, we are talking about Elon Musk, the real-world Iron Man. Elon is anxious and fears Artificial Intelligence taking over Humans. He wants us to develop our intelligence potential by accessing our action potential, so that AI does not turn on its creators. For that sole reason (plus the monetization), the Brain-Machine Interface of Neuralink will be accessible to everyone.

Of course, every invention is at the centre of the doubt initially. The case of Neuralink is fascinating and problematic at times and is not different than any other path breaking innovation. Neuralink is going to change the course of human history and will literally turn us into Cyborgs and thus, causes cynicism among a large section of scientists fraternity.

The biggest and fundamental problem with the Neuralink is that it seeks to reach symbiosis of AI and the brain, an enigmatic organ about which we barely know anything. Those who support it argue that we do not need to understand how the brain works to develop Artificial intelligence while the sceptics say that while integrating the functions of Brain and AI, it is crucial to discern nature with precision. David Eagleman, in his book ‘Brain’, claims that a lot of what we see around is not even the whole picture; it is a mere description that Brain paints for us. A simple task as perception is not clearly defined yet. We still have the entire sea of discoveries to be made when it comes to neuroscience.

The other concern with Neuralink is the possible hacking of Neural networks. Though Neuralink technology is heavily dependent on Bluetooth which is supposed to be secure, there are threats from the tech like the Trojan Virus. The implications of hacking are beyond terrible and sound like an evil hacker-robot-zombie apocalypse depicted in sci-fi movies.

Another aspect of Neuralink which needs to be looked into is the classic social divide of haves and have nots. The surgery, although portrayed something as simple as a LASIK surgery, may not be affordable for everyone in the society. Are we looking at a new kind of discrimination in future? Is it even ethical and feasible to put a chip inside the brains of the entire human race? Every question leads to a new question.

It is an alien concept and thus, a scary one. It can help us learn a lot about the brain itself but will have huge repercussions. Figuring out the answers to the simple yet significant problems should probably be the next step for the Neuralink team.

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January 18, 2021 2:21 PM

The Toxicity in Video Games and Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077, the most awaited video game was released on consoles and PC on 10th of December, 2020. The game went under 10 years of build-up and had kept gamers waiting for over 8 years. Cyberpunk 2077 is inspired by a cult-favourite tabletop roleplaying game. The video game was designed by well-known Polish studio, CD Projekt Red. Cyberpunk was the studio’s first big console game since The Witcher 3: Wild hunt which was an extraordinarily triumphant game that won numerous awards after its launch in 2015.

The popular video game, when released, faced backlash from the gaming community and non-gamers for several reasons. To many observers and gamers, Cyberpunk 2077 even proved to be an absolute failure. Several gamers called out the game developers for the promotion of sexiest ideologies and transphobia. However, the reviews weren’t well received by the fans. Cyberpunk 2077 fans responded with unacceptable abuses, harrasing and hateful messages and even rape and death threats.

Keanu Reeves in Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077 released ample previews, trailers, motion pictures and marketing material. Aside from this, the appearence of popular Canadian actor, Keanu Reeves as a character in the game carved the expectations of gamers and promised a sexy and kinky world of futuristic and revolutionary action. CD Projekt Red, one of Europe’s most successful video game company announced Cyberpunk 2077 project in 2012 and released the first trailer in 2013

The game is set in an alternate timeline in the city of California. The streets in the game are owned by tyrannical corporations. Everyone in the game modifies their body with illegal technology. Much of the state in the video game setting is said to be suffering from the impacts of a major nuclear attack which happened years ago. Every player gets to be a cyber-enhanced human who has to fight against physical and psychological threats to their survival. The game character of Keanu Reeves comes in as your sidekick.

In 2018, the developers insisted and had assured the gamers that Cyberpunk 2077 would not include in game purchases. CD Projekt Red did not want to lock any content behind a paywall. The studio was also insistent that the game would come out only when it was completely “ready”. They announced that the release would take place in April 2020 but it was delayed multiple times due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as other quality problems that the game was facing. When it was finally released in December 2020, gamers expected their experience of the game to be “worth the wait”. However, the video game wasn’t well revived by all. In spite of several months of work that went into making and developing the game, the game was launched with several technical issues. Players on both PC and consoles were having terrible experiences. As a result of multiple glitches and technical problems, the characters’ faces were obscured and the game would reset randomly. Some of the environments or areas of the game map was unappealing. The game even caused consoles to crash repeatedly and sometimes sacrificed players’ progress. One glitch led to characters’ breasts and penises being exposed. The characters’ genitals would poke out of their clothes. CD Projeckt Red offered refunds to players who were disappointed with the product. In fact, they updated a self-review discouraging gamers from playing the game on console until the game was fixed and improved.

Cyberpunk 2077 was roundly criticized by reviewers, game designers, industry insiders and other gamers across the gaming community. The wait and hype for the game had already created a fanbase which turned toxic by harassing reviewers who criticised the game.

There is another reason why the game wasn’t well received. Cyberpunk 2077 transphobia was apparent in the game contradicting the fact that the developers had claimed that the game was ahead of its time. The game has an incredibly detailed character creation menu. The players can control several aspects of their character’s appearance including the shapes and size of the genitals. The game even allows players to decline the option of including genitals to their characters. However, this isn’t the problem and is in fact appreciable. The idea of not determining gender by the character’s genitals in fact made many trans players happy. But this soon turned into disbelief and disappointment. The gamers realised that the game actually assigned the gender to the characters not based on their genitals but rather by the voice. Characters with higher-pitched voices were identified as females and characters with deep-voiced characters were assigned male pronouns. This purports the toxic idea that people’s gender can be determined by certain traits. A non-sexist video game would determine the gender of a player’s character based on an independent choice made by players themselves. This is uninfluenced by other physical traits or qualities.

Several reviewers called out Cyberpunk 2077 for promoting sexist ideologies. Unfortunately, toxic fans harassed the reviewers. “You just KNOW when you're going to get harassed. If the game with all the hype has anything wrong with it, and you're honest about that, or even just want to provide any context outside of ‘it's fun’, you're going to get harassed. It's a given.” These were precisely what Susan Arendt, a podcast host quoted. She even second guessed herself whether sharing her true opinions was worth the hateful, threatening and harassing messages that she received.

Controversial Tweet by Cyberpunk 2077 Twitter Handle

In the early days of arcade, gaming was a family activity. The popular male dominance and stereotype that only boys or men are good at video games were perpetuated in the past three decades. We observe this change due to sexualisation of video games. Today, most video games aren’t family friendly as they include explicit and sexual content. This, in fact, is a marketing tactic used by developers to target the male population. In 2018, a Cyberpunk 2077 fan who was awaiting the game at that point of time tweeted that the user wanted to see more from the “guys” at CDPR. In response to this tweet, CD Projekt Red tweeted, “Did you just assume their gender?!”. On the look of it, the tweet seems innocent but it is a joke at the expense of the trans community. After receiving backlash to the tweet, CDPR took it down and issued an apology staying sorry to “all those offended”. The apology seems like another targeted mockery and CDPR did no right by not taking responsibility for its actions.

Not only is Cyberpunk2077 transphobic and sexist, it is non user friendly as well. The game has several epilepsy triggers without any warnings about it. There are several instances and situations in the game where the effects and the graphics are brighter, louder and flashing. This is a general trigger for seizures. Liana Rupert, a player of Cyberpunk 2077 suffered a major seizure and at several moments felt that she was close to another one. After bringing this to the notice of CD Projekt Red, the company agreed to add trigger warnings wherever necessary.  

The gaming industry has definitely taken a few steps forward in terms of inclusivity of all genders but has also taken a few steps backward. While all genders are welcome, they still face harassment and judgement for simply existing in the community and need a lot more improvement.

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