In the wake of the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who lost his life at the hands of the police, racism has again been catapulted front and center, and a good part of our national dialogue centers on this issue. Racism is disgusting; and disparities between the races exist.
However, the era we’re moving into, with its leap into science fiction with Elon Musk’s implantable Neuralink microchips connected via ultra-high bandwith connections to extremely fast computers, has the potential to create a new species: Homo cyborgicus. The procedure is fast and easy; all that’s required is a needle-like machine pushing a super-fine thread into the brain, sort of like a sewing machine or a stapler Of course, these new technologies promise to help the blind see and the lame walk; however there is a dark side to all this that must not be ignored.
Individuals will be able to increase their intelligence beyond means available by traditional avenues such as applied study and disciplined focus. Augmented reality systems will bring a significant advantage to the new human cyborgs. Traditional humans will be unable to compete; the new human form will have better memory, better analytical ability, and who knows what other new and exotic abilities yet unavailable before the advent of coupling a human mind with artificial intelligence.
But who will be candidates for this elective surgery? Who will choose to implant a link to artificial intelligence in their skulls? . AI will be available to the already overly advantaged. It’s assured; there’s no other way this might work out in reality.
For anything but the alleviation of paralysis, blindness, and other infirmities, health insurance will certainly not cover these surgeries. So, who will be receiving the chip? Of course, it will be those who are already ahead of the pack, economically.
This will undoubtedly create a classist disparity that will also run along racial lines. Socioeconomic factors will be the determinant as to who will be augmented, and who will remain purely human.
There’s no other answer but to ban the use of this technology for anyone other than a person in need of such to help with a life threatening, or significantly limiting incapacity. If these measures are not taken now, socioeconomic inequality and significant differences regarding access to opportunity for Black, and Brown peoples, will become more solidified, permanently even.
There’s no doubt that our nation’s history is fraught with institutional and culturally ingrained racism, dating back to the days of Jim Crow segregation in the South, all the way back to colonial era slavery.
While many argue that there is no longer any such racism remaining in American society, that point is debatable. The entire history of Black folks migrating from the Southern plantations and fields to the mean stress of the North, detailed in the pages of Claude Brown’s seminal work Manchild In The Promised Land, demonstrates that Black people have had a difficult time thriving, through no fault of their own.
The legacy of slavery did not end with the Emancipation Proclamation; rather, it persisted as a shadow, influencing events and society in ways that were less obvious, though no less stark. Consider the War on Drugs, a Reagan-era development that was first begun by President Richard Nixon. Disparities in sentencing for crack cocaine, as oppose to other forms of the drug, led to mass incarceration of young Black men, as crack predominated in urban ghettos.
Likewise, differences in access to housing and educational opportunities continued to exist. At this point, the United States has certainly tackled the majority of issues; anyone doubting this would be hard-pressed to find the sorts of biases that existed in past centuries and decades in out modern era. Skin color plays less of a role than ever; in fact programs focusing on social equality make certain that these historical disparities are corrected, via governmental action.
Our United States government should take preemptive action to head this off before it becomes a society-wide issue. If implants solely for the purposes of becoming “smarter” become commonplace, or even if such procedures remain rare occurrences, those cybernetic humans will be living with an unfair advantage to everyone else.
Inevitably, this advantage will translate along already existing inequalities, and disadvantaged groups of all colors and ethnicities will be left behind. And, those inequalities will surely reflect longstanding racial inequalities, as there is significant overlap among the two. There’s just no other possibility. The people of the United States should confront this issue now, before it’s too late.