July 19, 2019
This is your brain on Neuralinkby Ballard Quass
Originally published July 19, 2019, in response to Elon Musk's Neuralink plan to fix brain disorders
Musk's idea might sound funny, were it not for the fact that many equally nutty ideas have been implemented in the name of psychiatric 'science' over the past 150 years: enema therapy, insulin coma therapy, Metrazol therapy, fever therapy, enforced isolation, and even forced sterilization - all piously claiming a scientific basis for their method of action. As if this past menu of hubristic horrors is not enough, we have modern psychiatry to thank for the fact that, even as I type this, 1 in 4 American women are chemically dependent on SSRIs for a lifetime - never mind the fact that these pills were originally trialed and marketed only as short-term remedies.
To be sure, Musk's comments focus on the use of implanted AI to treat Alzheimer's, but he also makes the grandiose insinuation that no mental trouble will eventually be beyond the mind-correcting powers of his surgically implanted device.
I used to laugh at the Kurzweils of the world who ran around screaming that "the Singularity is at hand," while I, for my part, could not even make myself understood by a corporate phone-bot, not even when using the most basic of highly articulated English-language phrases. But now I see that the AI proselytizers have to be taken seriously, not because they are on the brink of solving the world's problems, but because they THINK they are and so are liable to create real problems for real patients, unless we see through their enticing sci-fi pretensions to the vapid philosophy that underlies it: materialism, which is to say the philosophy according to which all the nonsense cures cited above once claimed to be justified.
Don't get me wrong: I would be thrilled if Musk could electronically tweak the brain so as to essentially cure Alzheimer's, but his ambitions go far beyond that. He's out to cure "brain disorders" in general, which, given his materialist assumptions, presumably means depression and anxiety as well.
That's where I say "hold everything."
We already know of plants whose use can create new neural connections in the brain, yet we do not even consider using them to treat mental illnesses. Why? Because Americans, who otherwise boast of their scientific prowess, have yet allowed those plants to be rendered illegal for over a half a century now. Plants! To be rendered illegal! In a scientific society? Hello?
We have no right to go casting about in the electronics cupboard for cures for depression and anxiety under such anti-scientific circumstances. Scientists and researchers should instead be rising up en masse to overthrow this government-sponsored prohibition on medical progress. (Better late than never: had they not been snookered by politics and materialist prejudices against psychedelics, scientists would have risen up in this way 50 years ago.)
Instead, almost to a man (and to a woman), scientists ignore their loss of freedom, expunging it from history in the very sentences that they speak. Thus a clinician will claim that they use ECT as a last resort, because everything else has failed for a given patient, when what they really mean is: 'We're using ECT because the government refuses to let us use non-damaging and non-addictive plant-based therapies instead.' That honesty would serve a profound purpose, by reminding the tabloid-led public how hysteria-based drug laws end up harming everyone in the long run.
I mention these indefensible drug laws because Musk's ambitions only make sense in the light of their pernicious existence. If the depressed and anxious were able to proceed with the informed use of psychedelics to treat their depression and anxiety, then I think Musk's AI plans would appear as laughable to them.
'Let's see,' says the giggling psychonaut: 'I can use this natural plant here to expand my mind, thus following in the footsteps of the mysteries at Eleusis in which Plato himself took part. . or I can have this Elon Musk fellow implant some operating software in my brain - which he'll no doubt update from time to time à la Windows Updates."
Then, reflecting on the countless PCs that have been ruined by Windows' bug-filled Updates...
"Uh, thanks, Elon, but I think I'll stick with my plant medicine!"