In April this year, Elon Musk (CEO of Tesla and SpaceX) publicly announced that his company, a startup in California, Neuralink, is developing a neural lace technology that will enable human beings to communicate with devices through their thoughts alone.
Neural lace is a wireless EEG device (electroencephalography) which tracks and records brain wave patterns. Traditional EEG devices are sensors that are placed onto the scalp with a whole lot of wires, or involve highly invasive surgery – something normally reserved for medical science and labs.
The difference with neural lace is that it’s to be surgically implanted into a human brain, and then will grow as the brain does. It will allow the brain to interface wirelessly with computers, to read and receive input to and from your very thoughts and senses.
With the rapidly advancing field of artificial intelligence (AI), this technology could allow people to become an “AI-Human symbiote” by enhancing our own cognition, where we are the AI.
EEG’s are nothing new; in fact, they were first researched in the 70s and are today used quite frequently. Research in the field has been rapid, going from theoretical to practical quickly, decoding people’s thoughts and allowing for some pretty astonishing accomplishments.
“Brain computers” already exist, and can mitigate some brain conditions like Parkinson’s or depression, can overcome sensory impairments like blindness and deafness, or control remote mechanical limbs (also the most likely near-term future for neural lace tech). Emotiv, as an example, uses the wearer’s thoughts to control video games.
Extending and enhancing ourselves through technology, machines and devices isn’t really anything new. Philosophers and futurists will argue that we’ve been doing it for hundreds of years, with devices to enhance our eyesight, extend our communication, improve our hearing, and store and retrieve our memories…
Though, until recently, we’ve had to physically interact with these devices. Perhaps the time is coming where we merely need to think to interact?
So how could neural lace technology affect you and your business?
Is it that big of a stretch to see Elon’s neural lace allowing people to drive their cars or control other devices just with their thoughts? Straight off the bat I can see four different aspects of field service that neural lace could influence.
With neural lace, you could “talk” to everyone in your network with your thoughts alone. You could send instructions, ask for help, or get other people’s perspectives on a problem you’re right in front of.
2. Syncing with a system
Think about it: data entry, looking up information, planning – these all rely on a person knowing how to use a system, to type and enter information.
Imagine if you could instead give the system natural language commands: “Hey simPRO, where is John right now?” or, “simPRO, could you please organise the materials for that job?”
Instead of just thinking about it, writing it down, or remembering to ask somebody else to look into it, you could just think about it and the system would go ahead and do it!
Better yet, what about having a conversation with the system to allow for refinement? Like, “Hey simPRO, could you please schedule in all the field techs for tomorrow’s runs?”, “Sure, though you have three techs on that project at the airport, would you like me to exclude them?”, “Yep, good idea!”
3. Interaction within your ecosystem
This means analysing the requirements from your customer, pushing that through your system, then communicating and checking in with your suppliers to ensure that it’s all possible – all through thought.
You wouldn’t have to read lengthy documents, interpret or best guess anything, or go to five different suppliers for project pricing manually.
4. Technical information at your fingertips, Matrix-style.
Remember that scene in The Matrix where Trinity makes a quick call to acquire the skills required to fly a helicopter?
Imagine you were in front of a piece of equipment you’d never seen before, and all you needed was to think about it to access the tech specs to know what it is, how it works and how to fix it.
Neural lace, for now, is shaping up to be a wireless device that will require a nearby computer to communicate with and reach the outside world, say, for example, a PC in your wristwatch.
But how long before it can become standalone, freeing your thoughts into the digital universe?
No doubt there will be plenty more applications for neural lace technology, both exciting and frightening in nature, though one thing is for sure, the future will be very different!
Though it’s not possible with current technology, with the focus and funding the field is receiving, it won’t be too long until it is. This is one of those inevitabilities, and even if Elon doesn’t succeed, someone will.
We need to think and talk about the possibilities now so we make the right decisions for our future.