This past January, as Russia was staging forces for its invasion of Ukraine, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists decided to keep its Doomsday Clock set at “100 seconds to midnight,” mostly due (no surprise) to the possibility of nuclear warfare, as well as to global warming and deadly pandemics. However, the members of The Bulletin, in their wisdom, added a brand-new threat, that of “disruptive technologies.” I respectfully argue that this new threat is soon to be the threat.
Bottom line up front: I suggest that oligarchs and totalitarian leaders like Vladimir Putin soon will have easy control over us, because we’re all about to have our smartphones implanted in our brains.
Don’t laugh. It’s for real. Read on.
Brain-computer interface (BCI) implants are about to mesmerize us—and then go about running us. Will the phenomenon impact all of humanity? It’s likely. At this writing, over 90 percent of the world owns a mobile phone, with over half of them being a smartphone. Nearly all Americans own some type of mobile phone, with 85 percent of them being a smartphone. The next step is implants. The notion of a worldwide network of brainphones is no longer in the realm of science fiction. It has entered the realm of science.
As I was doing research for my new book, The Brainphone Prophecy, I was amazed at how close we are to having these devices mass-marketed and mass-inserted.
In fact, there is at least one human who has his brainphone up and working. Just this past December, the BCI company Synchron successfully inserted an interface device—the Stentrode—in the head of Philip O’Keefe, who suffers from Lou Gehrig’s disease. O’Keefe can now email, bank, shop online, and send messages via Twitter, simply through his thoughts.
Another smartphone-like implant ready for human trial is Elon Musk’s Neuralink device. In August 2020, he gave a live demonstration of the instrument, called the Link, which had been placed in a pig’s brain. It since has been implanted in a monkey’s brain. Musk’s stated goal is a Link affordable enough and easily installable enough that everyone who wants one can get one. Corporate investments into these types of devices are now in the hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars.
There might be an intermediate stage. We might start the process of visiting virtual worlds and communicating, without speaking, via virtual headsets. Examples are the ones just coming to market for joining Mark Zuckerberg’s extended reality—Meta’s metaverse. However, I suspect people will grow bored with these helmets rather quickly when the implants are able to put metaverses directly into the three sensory cortexes of our brains.
Our brainphones will really be something. These implants will each contain a processor, a battery, and an inductive charger (for recharging the brainphone without having to insert a plug). Initially, brainphones will each have a Bluetooth and use an outside modem, such as a conventional mobile phone. As miniaturization advances, brainphones are likely to contain modems and be fully self-contained. They will have many of the processing, communicating, gaming, virtual-reality, and social-media features of the smartphone. They might enhance memory, record memory, or create memory (such as learning a new language all at once).
The major problem with these devices is that we won’t be able to walk away from them or place them in a drawer when we need a break. We will be forever connected (enslaved?) to the people who control the technology. They will monitor our thoughts, erase the thoughts they don’t like, and maybe even shut off our basic life functions if we cause too much trouble. Our brainphones are also likely to be highly addictive, and so even when we realize that we’re being oppressed, it will be too late. We might not even care, if our virtual worlds are keeping us occupied, entertained, and blissful. If those in control shut us down, we might die very happy deaths.
Just as in Orwell’s novel 1984, we might find ourselves being subjugated by our neighbors as much as by our leaders. With brainphones, we might find ourselves thinking, living, and acting as human hives, always tuned into and slave to collective thought and opinion. We’d better toe the line. Will “thoughtcrime” really be a thing? Oh yes.
What can be done? I suggest laws banning the devices. Unfortunately, corporate money holds lots of political sway these days, at least in the United States. And so, I’m not hopeful. Maybe we could ban them from the heads of children, sort of like not allowing young people to smoke. Corporations might not like that option, either: young consumers mean big, big profits. Another possibility is that some individuals and families might take strong, personal stands against having brainphones implanted, even if it means losing jobs, being ostracized by society, or being persecuted by the oligarchs who’d really, really like everyone to be connected.
At least if some people resist getting brainphones, they’ll be around to push for a free existence—and try again for humanity—when the Doomsday Clock strikes midnight and most of the world succumbs to an oppressive, brain-computer interface overdose.
Scott Snair, Ph.D., is a data analyst and author in Washington, D.C. His new book is The Brainphone Prophecy: Stop Corporations and the Government from Inserting a Smartphone in Your Brain (Adventures Unlimited Press, 2022). He administers the LinkedIn group, Ban the Brainphone – Professionals Against Brain Tech for Mass Producing and Mass Implanting.