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"And I beheld, and heard the voice of one eagle flying through the midst of heaven,
saying with a loud voice: Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth....
[Apocalypse (Revelation) 8:13]

Sunday, March 11, 2018

BRAIN IMPLANTS A REALITY: Brain implants are happening — are you ready for yours?

Brain implants are happening — are you ready for yours?

Brain implants or other types of neural links, such as Brain Computer Interfaces (BCIs) between the brain, the internet, and the cloud, are quickly entering the realm of science rather than science fiction.
The Defense Advanced Research Agency is ready to run trials with closed-loop mood control chips linked to AI that can deliver an electrical impulse to regulate a soldier’s mood. In the private sector, Elon Musk has announced Neuralink — a neurotechnology venture that will not only focus on fighting diseases but also on augmenting humans so they can better compete with machines.

The technology is advancing in campuses and government-backed labs around the world, attracting serious funding from established technology players, technology institutes, and top universities. For instance, Professor Newton Howard of Oxford University has produced a functional neural implant prototype by combining some of the brightest minds at MIT, Oxford, and Georgetown, and the resources and technical know-how of Intel and Qualcomm.
All of this begs the question: Is the world ready for this kind of human enhancement, and is it a worthy idea to pursue in the first place? Well, I for one wouldn’t be standing in line waiting for my brain implant, as it would take away too much of what makes me who I am.

The ‘promises’ of a bio-enhanced future

The introduction of brain implants that we normal people could buy at the mall will open a Pandora’s box of possibilities. It’s one of those technological leaps that makes you wonder if our future is going to be heaven or hell (#Hellven). This is something that I spend a lot of time thinking about, and have written extensively about in articles and for my book.
I know it might sound like a cliché, but many of the potential “upgrades to human” will probably end up downgrading our lives in terms of health and happiness. While we might gain certain superpowers, we would also lose many attributes that define us as human beings.
How could we retain non-algorithmic-generated characteristics such as serendipity, surprise, mystery, and even free will in a world dominated by super-intelligent machines connected directly to our mind? Wouldn’t a constant connection to a cloud with virtually limitless computing capacity lead to total dependency, to a radical loss of human autonomy, and ultimately, to the total dehumanization of society?
Granted, pretty much everybody would want superhuman powers, and many of us would do almost anything to become god-like cyborgs. If humanity were asked to choose, this would for many seem a no-brainer.
Here’s the argument that probably most of use will be faced with:
“You are using a smartphone, right? You are using Google Maps. You own a notebook. So why not use a brain-computer-interface or a neurolace — the same thing, but more efficient and without the hassle of having any external device!”
But here’s where this logic goes wrong: Fundamentally messing with who we are as humans, redesigning our biology and our chemistry and transcending the limitations of our minds and hearts is a different cup of tea than using external devices to extend our abilities in basic ways — like finding a faster way to a location.
As the philosopher and futurist Marshall McLuhan said repeatedly, every extension of man is also an amputation of man’s capability somewhere else. While small amputations such as using Google Translate rather than translating words ourselves may be acceptable to most, quintessentially human attributes such as giving birth should not be amputated — regardless of what some technologists suggest.
We need to ask ourselves what we want to be in the future. This is the most important question facing us as we enter an age of unlimited possibilities, which we will see in our own lifetime. Because independent of what we choose, there will be profound consequences.

Will this decision be truly and solely ours to make?

What I’m worried about the most — and what you need to consider as well — is whether we’ll even have an actual choice to “opt out” if BCIs are implemented. Assuming that the benefits of these technologies are so plentiful, will we be able to find a good job without a BCI? Will we be able to opt out without becoming useless, like someone who insists on banging away on a typewriter or sending telegrams instead of using a computer?
Neural implants’ exponential impact on learning and cognitive ability will pressure people to start using them at a very young age, which will naturally translate into parents having to  make this decision for their children. So the question becomes: How far would you go to give your child an edge? Will it be just a matter of principles, or also a financial decision, that will lead to even more inequality? This would generate lifelong differences in productivity, wages and opportunity, dividing society from birth into two classes — the upgraded and those left behind.
When will we get to the point where society is faced with such a radical new course? It will not come without a serious debate and a fight, of course. The anti-vaccine movement has shown that even the slightest risk or the rarest malfunction can become a stick with which those opposed to neural implants could use to bludgeon proponents.
Similarly, implants may, over time, overcome most of the ethical issues and become the norm in mainstream society — and even lead to legislation that facilitates and legitimizes their use. AI will then work its way into every part of our life and someday we won’t be able to function without it, losing our independence and a lot of what makes us human.
But worry not, this won’t happen overnight.
Today, more questions are being posed than answered. The reason is that before an age of acceptance, there needs to be an age of discussion to sort out ethical and moral issues. We need to raise questions, issue warnings and keep a close watch on advances in this nascent technology before we agree to a buy-in, and before we lose our right to decide.
The technological argument for BCIs will need to be watertight, based on years of research and a track record of improving society, before the ethical concerns of such a revolutionary development can begin to fade. Before we jump on an unstoppable bandwagon, we also need to offer opt-outs to those unwilling to hop on. Alternatives to BCIs could include boundaries added to the technology, such as an underage prohibition, and even anti-discrimination protections for those who choose not to embrace the movement.
The technology is already here. Human nature means it could be decades or more before everyone is offered that choice. But it’s coming. It won’t happen soon, or without a fight. But that still doesn’t mean we shouldn’t prepare for it.

Philippines, Honduras Are Embracing RFID Technology To Track Citizens' Movements


Source: ZeroHedge

In the not-too-distant future, law enforcement will be able to easily track our movements thanks to microchips, which some workers - as we’ve previously reported.
Indeed, some people are happily lining up to be microchipped - even throwing parties to celebrate their coworkers embracing the microchipping phenomenon, without any regard to how this technology could be used to further totalitarian aims.
As technology that tracks our movements becomes more widespread, an unassuming article in a trade journal about RFID technology - which uses radio signals to track movements of people or products - highlights a portentous development: Honduras, the Philippines and the Cayman Islands are deploying license plates with RFID technology to help track their citizens’ movements on highways and other roads.
The specific technology being used by these three countries are called the IDePlate and IDeSTIX. The former is implanted in license plates while the latter is in innocuously attached to a car’s windshield. Together, they allow authorities to track their citizens, while also providing a fallback in case a license plate is stolen.
The RFID technology, developed by the Dutch firm Tonnjes E.A.S.T, uses cryptography to verify the owner of a car, which can then be ascertained by the operator of a scanner similar to the license plate scanners that are already in wide use by police in the US (which, as we pointed out several years ago, will soon be operated by drones).
Tonnjes offers governments the hardware needed to fabricate and install the tags, while also providing the software to program them.
The RFID-enabled plate is designed to be forgery-proof, says Jochen Betz, Tönnjes' managing director. The UCODE DNA IC uses cryptographic authentication based on the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). Each time a tag is interrogated, it generates a new AES calculation based on its unique crypto key, which the reader receives and is programmed to verify. That ID number can then be linked to data about the vehicle and registration in a database.
By using both the IDePlate and IDeStix, the system enables users to identify any misuse of license plates. The problem with plate identification alone, the company explains, is that it cannot detect if the wrong plate is attached to a car. "Plate theft is very difficult to avoid," Betz states, so the IDeStix provides a level of redundancy. The IDeStix is a hologram-printed windshield sticker that is placed on the window's interior.
The RFID-enabled sticker can be interrogated simultaneously with the plate tag, and can then respond with its own encrypted code that is linked to the vehicle's information. Tönnjes sells the RFID-enabled blank or finished plates to government agencies and offers equipment to emboss a plate number. They can then use their own software to link each tag's encoded RFID number with the plate ID.
While governments are just beginning to roll out these systems, RFID Journal notes that one potential complication in rolling out the windshield-sticker tags (which, again, are necessary to compensate for license-plate theft) is the number of tags already attached to vehicles, mostly by their manufacturers, to track their movements.
When it comes to the capturing and filtering of data, Betz notes, one software-based challenge for a system like this is the large number of RFID tags already attached to parts of most modern vehicles. In fact, he estimates, there can be 15 or more RFID tags on a single car, most attached to parts that were being tracked by the manufacturer prior to the car's sale. "We don't want to talk to 17 tags [on a single car]," he states. Therefore, the system is designed to screen out all tag reads that are not recognized as part of the IDePlate system.
In the Cayman Islands, the RFID-tagging system was adopted last year, with the island’s government installing checkpoint readers (also created by Tonnjes) to capture vehicles’ information.
In the Cayman Islands, the system was taken live in 2017, with approximately 50,000 vehicles now equipped with the RFID-enabled plates and windshield stickers. Between five and 10 checkpoint readers provided by Tönnjes are scheduled to be installed around the county. The company supplies the middleware and software that captures the tag ID reader data and feeds that information, linked to the vehicle IDs, to the Cayman Island government's vehicle database. The reader installation is posing a unique challenge, Betz says, since the devices had to be mounted on hurricane-proof gantries. The Cayland Islands government needs to ensure that the gantries would be able to sustain high winds.
The Philippines has ordered millions of plates to begin rolling out its own system…
In addition, the Land Transportation Office (LTO), a department of the Philippine Ministry of Transport, has hired Tönnjes to deliver 3.25 million of its license plates for cars and motorcycles. The government is also purchasing IDeSTIX windscreen labels for 775,000 cars, and IDeSTIX Headlamp Tags for 1.7 million motorcycles.
And Turkey is also piloting the technology...
Turkey has also piloted the technology with vehicles on a testing course of the country's traffic police, while a trial in Russia tracked the movements of public buses throughout the city of Kazan. In addition, Tönnjes and Kirpestein are in discussions with the government of the Netherlands to conduct an open-road pilot, and is also in talks with vehicle authorities in that country regarding further pilots of the technology.