What will happen when your brain is ’embedded’?

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September 12, 2023

I was thinking about embedded, intelligent finance and imagining the future. There are many scenarios, but one that I kept returning to is when you have infi inside (intelligent finance inside). A chip in your brain, and you can run your life on automatic.

It may seem phantasmagorical but there are several examples of where technology is heading today that show the possibilities.

First, there’s the work of Alexander Huth at the University of Texas. Alexander is Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and Computer Science, working on research that uses computational methods to model how the brain processes language and represents meaning. His latest research paper gives you an example of where he’s coming from, which is to record people’s brains and using a computational decoder, work out what you’re thinking or hearing. Put it a simpler way, his technology developments could allow the network to read your mind:

How the technology behind ChatGPT could make mind-reading a reality

Then there’s Kevin Warwick, Chancellor of Coventry University, who became the world’s first human cyborg back in the 1990s. A quarter century later, he talks a good talk about how humans are becoming integrated with the network.

In case you’re wondering what’s the point? Kevin was involved in one experiment that involved a two-hour operation to implant a ‘brain gate’ system in him, linking his nervous system with a computer. Professor Warwick’s brain learned to recognise the system of pulses emitted and was able to turn on lights and control a wheelchair just by thinking it. I guess that’s useful if you have no bodily movement … and that’s the point. For those who are quadriplegic or similar or worse, the ability to connect our brains to computers is a critical development for the future. But it goes further than this … if you’re Elon Musk.

To begin with his company, Neuralink, is working on trials to link brain activity to the real world for those who are paralysed. Gaining FDA approval for human trials in June 2023, the company has risen in value from $2 billion to $5 billion in just two years. “Musk has had the historic golden touch with Tesla and SpaceX so Neuralink is on the radar of the tech world over the coming years”, says Daniel Ives, an analyst with Wedbush Securities.

The thing is that, if you can implant a system in the brain to link humans to the network, why would you limit it to those who are paralysed or quadriplegic? Why not offer it to everyone?

So, here’s a vision. Your future no longer has any visible technology involved. You are a cyborg. Everything you think and do is linked to the networked system. Your eyes can imagine and see anything you want to imagine and see. Forget Netflix, as you can entertain yourself for hours with your own imagination. Your brain can answer any question any time. Forget Google, you just wonder about something and know the answer. Your ears can hear whatever they want to hear. Forget Spotify, you just make up your own music. Your nose can smell whatever it wants. You can walk through a sewer and smell the roses. Your mouth is tasting whatever it wants to taste. Who needs Michelin stars when your tongue can have its own five-star menu anywhere, anytime?

You get the idea and yes, it may sound far-fetched, but it is not so far away. Five or ten years?

Does embedded, intelligent money mean we have been assimilated?

What does this mean for money and intelligently, embedded finance?

Thinking about money being inside my head, it already is in many ways. When I go around paying for things, I’m not focused upon my balances but on living my life. In the back of my head is that awareness that debits are going down and credits up, but the actual numbers are generic and not specific.

What if the future world makes it far more specific so, in the back of my mind, I can see every account balance increasing and decreasing in real-time. What if the system then takes this a step further and starts giving me red, amber and green lights for my financial lifestyle? We already have these of course – it’s called credit checks – but what happens if my lifestyle is adjusted during these checks on my brain and my spending? What if I’m a gambling addict and, rather than selecting to block gambling platforms, the bank decides to do it for me based upon forward projections of my lifestyle spending? What if I’m an alcoholic, and the embedded, invisible, monetary system decides to block my ability to buy alcohol? What if I have cancer, and so all unhealthy activities are switched off, including access to the food I love, which the system has decided are bad for me?

You get the picture.

Take another angle: authentication and verification. Now that the financial service is embedded in my brain and, therefore, my body, what if the system needs an authentication? It no longer needs a biometric based upon face or finger. It can use blood pressure, blood flow, heart rate and even my DNA!

The positives of embedded, intelligent finance are clear but so are the negatives, and they are all the same negatives as the current system, namely, how intrusive is this? Is Big Brother here and now or is it just a gradually developing process of assimilating us all?

This argument has raged for years, and the truth of the argument is balance. The balance between ease of living, convenience of money and the benefits of not having to think about things; versus the centralising tracking of who we are, what we are doing and how we live.

In other words, intelligent, embedded finance might appear to assume that the centralised authorities – banks and governments – can track and trace our real-time lives, 24*7. But that would be an incorrect assumption as my brain implant that embeds me may just as easily be my decentralised pocket of the networked universe.

The future is both exciting and scary but, as always, the key thing to remember is that it is you and me creating it. The future is the only thing you can change. Make it your change.

This piece is an adapted repost of two pieces merged into one from “The Finanser by Chris Skinner”.

Chris Skinner
Chris Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News.
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September 12, 2023