Posted 30 days ago
Neurological implants are all the hype in news, tech, books, and video games (I'm in the middle of Cyberpunk 2077 in which the whole game revolves around implants). We have a tendency to think that life-changing devices are right around the corner, but I really disagree. As Kenneally writes, it's only been "a quarter of a century since the F.D.A. first approved the use of a deep-brain-stimulation device" and there are only 200,000 people worldwide that live with "a neural implant of some kind." It's more than 0 for sure, but I don't think any sane person is looking to implant tech in their body just yet, unless it's for serious health conditions.
Intervewing the neurologist, Terry O'Brien, Kenneally writes:
At the most basic level, he said, a seizure is a rogue electrical discharge, an oscillation that moves in time and space, a bit like a tornado. Understanding isn’t helped by the fact that epilepsy is not a single disease, but rather the brain’s response to a variety of pathologies. Consequently, people with epilepsy often struggle with other conditions. Leggett had severe migraines and suffered from depression. The suicide rate for people with epilepsy is between two and three times higher than it is in the rest of the population.
This does seem like a good test run for software/hardware understanding the real world. Then, Kenneally turns to the philosophical - which kind of surprised me but is what most people turn to these days when dealing with these types of questions (I think it's also the publication. Wired would have looked more at the technical details, for example, while The New Yorker focuses on the high-level concepts most of its readers would appreciate).
A good question that Frederic Gilbert, the philospher, poses is:
Suppose that someone whose brain was artificially stimulated committed a crime: were they responsible for their actions?
I imagine that any implants are going to be run under very private companies for a long time with crazy agreements like those we sign online which removes all liability to platforms. Morally, I'm not sure, but practically, people will definitely be responsible for their actions for a long time, I think.