‘Who will control merged human-AI digital space?’ Slavoj Zizek on Musk’s brain implant venture
The plan to directly link the brain with AI will inevitably create a privileged class that will retain self-identity and free will, obtaining an immense control over the ordinary human consciousness merged with digital space, argues Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek.
With an ambitious goal of keeping mankind up-to-speed with advancing technology, the billionaire tech entrepreneur and inventor Elon Musk has played an active role in launching a new company called Neuralink which seeks to create devices that can be implanted in the human brain, the Wall Street Journal reported this week. However, such a step inevitably raises questions of who will be in control of the digital space that would emerge.
“There is first the big question of power – who will be controlling this digital space? It’s a mega-political question,” Zizek told RT.
“Here I don’t believe in those dreamers like [American scientist] Ray Kurzweil, who think we will become part of some collective brain-singularity and so on. No, the only question for me is – and we don’t have a good answer – how will this affect our self-experience? Will we still experience ourselves as free beings, or will we be regulated by digital machinery – now comes the crucial point – without even being aware that we are being regulated?”
Zizek argues that with advancing technology, it will be possible to use this AI link to control people and get them to do things without even realizing it, something that has totalitarian implications.
“Never forget that attempts to control us always begin like this,” Zizek explained. “You begin with all these humanitarian causes, heart diseases and so on, and then sooner or later you move to police control. Even today, computers know more about ourselves than we do.”
“I know where the future is. We will be automatically checked-up, controlled for our health, but also for our purchases, what are we buying, for our political opinions, for our voting, and so on. A computer will literally know us better than we know ourselves.”
“I’m not opposed to this, I’m not a utopian, my question is simply: who will control the computers?”
Zizek, who has written extensively about the class struggle, said he predicts a new class system emerging, built around our access to the digital world.
“I think we are approaching a paradoxical situation [in light of modern consumerism], where to be outside digital space will become a privilege. I think the privileged will be those, who will be able to regulate digital space without themselves being fully included into it.”
“A new class division will appear, much stronger than the old class division envisioned by Marxist theory: a division between those who are just controlled, and those who can regulate those modes of digital control themselves.”
But despite all this, Zizek maintains that the coming digital revolution is a source of freedom as well as oppression.
“I’m not a pessimist here. It’s just we should be aware that something radically new is emerging which will affect our most basic experience of who we are as human beings.”