Saturday, July 25, 2020

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

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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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October 23, 2020 3:57 PM

Male gaze, their female guardians and sports-wear

In Helen Cixous’ essay, ‘The Laugh of Medusa’, she urges women to redefine what their body means to them, not just physically but also socially, emotionally and politically. This could happen by re-writing about your body in a way you deem  fit, the expression you identify with and separating it from how your body has been written about by men. The expression could be how you view your body separate from the patriarchal lense.

It is no secret that a woman’s body is subject to critique. While clothing for men is just a tool to cover themselves as per the surrounding environment, clothing for women isa social and political narrative that dictates their life or as we affectionately call it ‘culturally appropriate’.

The clothing style could vary. It could be a woman covered head to toe in a Burqa, it could be a woman who decides to wear sports-wear in a park or it could be jeans and a top. Everything is critically evaluated by men and by women who work towards protecting the male gaze.

The male gaze is a heterosexual way of looking at female bodies that sexualises these bodies into an object. It is a gaze that runs on the self-affirmative notion that the bodies of women, and what they do with it, is directly linked to how they  appear in front of a man.

In a recent incident in Bangalore, India, popular Indian actress Samyuktha Hegde was abused and threatened by senior political leader of the congress party, Kavitha Reddy,  for wearing sports-wear, in Bangalore’s Agara Lake park. She was exercising with her friend.

Kavitha Reddy initially claimed she was in indecent attire and went onto morally police and then later abused the actress and her friend.  A supposedly progressive political leader gets uncomfortable by what women are wearing. It breaks into an argument and a fight where the politician is supported by five to six men. Later on, the police appear to be appeasing the politician instead of the women who were harassed. Although she did apologise, her apology came after her video went viral, and as a protection for her own political reputation.

To look at Samyuktha Hegde’s clothing as a threat is to view her clothing as an act of obscenity therefore bullying her identity and sense of agency and reducing her to sexual object, who, by putting her in public, apparently gives the men present a right to look at her? Nevermind that she was there to workout like everyone else, her actions were confused as to how men look at her. In the video posted by the actress, the politician is surrounded by men who are championing her on. The politician choses to side with the patriarchal figures in shaming these women. Asking to protect from the male gaze is a far stretch but punishing women for the male gaze is where we should draw a line.

What roles does Kavitha Reddy play? She is the guardian of the male gaze. We find her in our mothers, in our grandmothers, in aunties and sometimes our friends. She understands a woman’s body as an object that is there to be looked at by men. She gets angry at women for wearing certain kinds of clothing but she is not angry at men for looking. The agency in this case always belongs to men.

When Cixous asks women to re-define their identity, she urges us to strangle the moral police that comes alive in such instances. It is the moral police that shames women for wearing clothes that don’t flatter their bodies or clothes that do flatter them. She urges us to reflect upon the source of such vigilance. Do we shame other women because we believe in what we are saying or our identity is partially (or  wholly) shaped by the male gaze?

Whether we chose to wear a burqa, or a dress, or variations of the new type clothing produced everyday, the crux of the matter is that it should not worry anyone apart from the one wearing it. The identity of a woman, sexual or otherwise, has to be redefined to be separated from the men and their gaze. We have to draw a line otherwise people in power will continue to abuse their power and preserve patriarchy and male gaze.

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