Inject a New Reality

Olivia Wilde’s recent film “Don’t Worry Darling” had everyone worried. Your boyfriend using BCIs to create a new reality for you against your knowledge is slightly unsettling, but not as unsettling as this science fiction film becoming a reality. Elon Musk is developing Brain Computing Interfaces (BCIs) that enable you to choose whatever life you desire… not so far off from the nightmarish world of Don’t Worry Darling. On the topic of creepy, the race to develop decision making AI and marketing to your subconscious continues, raising questions over the extent of our free will.

Plugging into the subconscious

If you watched Morgan Spurlock’s documentary about advertising you might remember when he asks Ralph Nadar if there’s anywhere we won’t eventually see ads, and Nadar answers “When you’re asleep”. Coors light beer don’t agree. Last year the company undertook a study with the aim to “shape and compel the subconscious” into dreaming about beer. Participants had to listen to a synth laden soundtrack whilst watching natural imagery featuring glimpses of Coors light beer cans. The creepy thing is that it worked, 30% of the participants stated that Coors beer appeared in their dreams. One participant shared that she was “on a pogo stick jumping around with Coors products”. In the focus group after the experiment, they shared their discomfort at Coors attempting to infiltrate their brains. 

Injecting a new reality 

Immersive Reality (IR) immerses you into another reality by injecting that reality into your brain and Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI) are the technology that enable this. With BCIs you can save lives, control robots and read a thousand books in one second if you really wanted to. Although you won’t be able to speak telepathically tomorrow, Elon Musk has proved BCIs should be on the forefront of our minds. A recent $205 million investment into his BCI development company Neuralink shows this tech is inevitable. We didn’t believe self-driving cars would happen until we did. So far this all sounds great, but BCI’s create disconcertment, particularly in the advertising world. Modern technology has always been rampant with adverts, but this takes Coors light beer to the next level: plugging into your brain. There are more serious ethical concerns like their ability to alter reality or read minds. Already BCIs are able to reveal sensitive information like debit card numbers through picking up your brain signals. 

 

They also have the potential to violate our sense of autonomy. Psychological evidence highlights that our sense of free will is reliant on an understanding that our actions have consequences, but the delay between the generation of brain activity and the output of the BCI compromises your control, and a weakened sense of agency can emerge. Being your authentic self can only happen when we know our personal identity but BCIs can alter this perception. A study conducted by Frederic Gilbert found that one subject changed into a new person after a BCI implantation, and another individual experienced a “radical symbiosis” to the extent that losing it caused her to feel as if she had lost herself. BCIs can ultimately threaten the understanding of true self, free will and private thoughts. 

Decision making AI and free will

Computers are already controlling the choices you make online. Regardless of all the options you can click to not store your data or reject cookies, there is no such thing as online privacy, people are leaving digital footprints of their identities or personal data wherever they go. And these AI algorithms gather and mine your online personal data. Thousands of personal data points are collected to make accurate predictions about your behaviour.Companies like Netflix use software that recommends content based of patterns of behaviour but to also increase the company’s financial metrics. Research has found that AI can exploit weaknesses in human decision making and sway people to make certain decisions. A level of manipulation is used in your extended mind for company’s financial gain, causing you to lose free will. In the near future it could become as black and white as AI making every decision for you, what to eat for breakfast, who you should be friends with or which job to take.

You won’t be able to inject a new reality tomorrow, next week or next month. But you might be able to in a year or two, particularly with the recent hefty investment into Elon Musk’s BCI company. Start having a think about what reality you might choose. Is it one where AI decides your every move? Or even better, a never-ending dream of Coors light beer. You decide.