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Marketplace

This is your brain on Wi-Fi

Molly Wood and Austin Cross Jun 8, 2015
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Finish this sentence: “If my brain could connect to my Wi-Fi network, I would feel ______.”

In his new book, “Apex,” former Microsoft developer Ramez Naam takes readers 20 years into the future to tell the story of a dystopian world that is (disturbingly) similar to our own. The third book in his “Nexus” trilogy, Naam explores the potential pitfalls of a neurally networked society.

“Everything you can imagine can go wrong,” Naam says. “From software crashes in your brain, to hackers, to the equivalent of the NSA wanting to snoop in on your thoughts.”

Naam was inspired to write the series when, after years as a developer, he began to realize just how advanced brain-implanted technology was becoming. The field is still largely experimental, but many scientists are already exploring the possibility that people could one day control computers and even communicate with one another using only their minds.

A connected world like this raises many ethical questions. But while society may reject technology advances at first, Naam says that, with time, people will come to embrace it.

“When we had in vitro fertilization invented about 30 years ago, the cover of Time Magazine was ‘Test Tube Babies,’ and we thought it was deeply unethical … but 30 years on, no one even talks about test tube babies. Now they just say, ‘Oh, we had some trouble having a baby, and now we have twins.’ ”

Naam says that, much like the story told in his trilogy, there will always be a temptation to use advancements improperly, but he contends that that shouldn’t stand in the way of progress.

“Mostly, people choose to do things for their betterment or their kids,” he says. “If somebody’s trying to do it to really hurt someone else, make that illegal, but let people make smart choices for themselves.”

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