One good reason for not doing these feats is our ignorance. While we are able to channel simple electrical signals into and out of our body for sensor and effector functions, we don’t know how to do so for more complex cognitive tasks: Where and how, within your brain, might a surgeon connect a chip’s tentacles to communicate a concept like “freedom”? While scientists have been steadily gaining new knowledge about the brain, they are far from knowing how concepts are represented in it and how we might begin tapping them.
But let’s be optimistic, and suppose that after a while we do crack this mystery and manage to connect chips to our brains so as to communicate our deepest thoughts. Wouldn’t that make brain implants a great idea? No!
Imagine that you and I and a couple of other people are successfully interconnected via brain chips. We might look cool with sockets and plugs adorning our heads. But we wouldn’t be able to start or sustain a single thought: Everybody else’s thoughts would be distracting us, screaming for attention within our heads. We might then realize that in spite of our knee-jerk craving for rapid intercommunication, some isolation among organisms is essential if they are to form a viable society. In humans, this balance between isolation and intercommunication is maintained by our seeing, hearing, speaking and gesturing activities, whose slow intercommunication speed, compared to thinking, most likely represents the best evolution could do to simultaneously preserve the individual and society.
Not yet convinced brain implants are a lousy idea? Let’s talk about the threshold people may be willing to cross before violating the sanctity of their body: While some may undergo plastic surgery for casual, even silly, reasons, everyone considering a pacemaker implant or a heart transplant is sure to proceed cautiously-and only if life depends on it. It seems that we may disturb our outer surface for less than life-and-death reasons. Not so when it comes to the heart. But, heart and brain are equally central to our being. So, why would anyone implant a chip into his brain, for less than life-and-death reasons-like downloading information? I don’t think anyone would. Not even my young listener, if he were actually facing a neurosurgeon’s drill! We have wisely set a high threshold for tampering with the core of our being, because of fear, but also because of natural, moral and spiritual beliefs. Whatever our reasons for respecting the sanctity of our body’s innermost core, they spell out, one more time, that…brain implants are a lousy idea!