As those of you who've read Ten%Max and Higher Forces know, I mix emerging science with science fiction to project where we're going to be five years from now, and then ten - but those dates are getting closer and closer to reality. Regularly in the news, there are reports of breakthroughs in tech advancements that impact our inner experience, our thoughts, our moods - everything. A couple of days ago an NPR report stated:
"Elon Musk founded Neuralink, which is dedicated to increasing cognition with devices implanted in the brain. Bryan Johnson, the billionaire who founded Braintree, has also started Kernel, which is working on similar projects. And Facebook is making a brain-machine interface that lets people type with their thoughts. It's still early days, and most ideas to upgrade human bodies and brains are in the research phase. But scientists expect that what we think of as "human" is likely to undergo a revolution in the coming decades."
I began my own brain research, in the late 1960s for NIH, using early EEG equipment to explore how LSD impacts brain function. From there we studied the effect of meditation and yoga on brain function, and also how hypnosis could alter brainwave parameters. We identified EEG patterns for each of the emotions, and for different types of cognition. I then went into therapy work, but all along I've been advancing models for how tech might impact our inner experience and behavior.
While staying abreast of science advances, and keeping an ear alert to uncover Silicon Valley intentions, the tech-psych vision that step by step emerged in my new suspense novels continued to become more and more complex, scientifically grounded, and realistic. What I've done in my stories is provide a fiction situation where rogue researchers with no conscience could explore tech/brain interface systems outside the law. That's what drives the tech dimensions of Higher Forces, and five years later becomes manifest in Ten%Max's whole-planet attack on our thoughts and moods.
SpaceX is right now launching its first 60 internet satellites for instance, running parallel with the tech threat in Ten%Max. And we know from the nightly news that tech is always running ahead of government oversight - it seems that we'll never be able to keep up and regulate what these companies are actually doing. From reading my novels, you can explore one possible outcome, and it's not pretty.
I participated in a think-tank gathering last week with 7 remarkably brilliant scientists, and as we brainstormed about emerging tech dangers, at first I thought I was with a bunch of far-out conspiracy theorists, way beyond my projections - but as I listened and questioned, I realized that they were talking seriously about very real possibilities on several science fronts, that make most science fiction out of date. Tech is indeed pushing us faster than we can keep up - unless we decide to shout loud and clear - hold on just a minute!
I feel a primary role of my fiction is to show us what might very well happen in the near future if we don't wake up and take responsibility for our own science advances. We're right now letting tech run rampant, coming up with all sorts of new expansions - but without adequate consideration of the ethical human repercussions. We're mostly in future-shock, this is obvious. But we mustn't just indulge in overwhelm.
We need to rediscover how to reflect, to take time to evaluate, to project a bit more clearly into the future ... and decide in a transparent democratic process whether we really do want Google or SpaceX or the Pharmas to provide us with tech tools that modify our emotions, for instance? This is the great frontier - tech tools that reduce anxiety and depression, quiet upset thoughts, and shift our attitudes in directions that make us feel better - but at what cost?
I wrote Higher Forces and Ten%Max with the hope of showing in drama what's coming right at us if we don't wake up and do something about it. I love tech, it's unstoppable, it's in our genes to push these limits and expand our nervous systems through electronic extensions. But we're fools to let this run wild, out of control, and unregulated by our larger cultural aims and personal needs and shared human virtues. We do after all want to survive and sustain this human experiment, not let tech advances render humanity defunct or dead on arrival.
I end each of my 3 new novels in a hopeful leap of faith - but I also keep the alternate dehumanizing options still on the table. It's clearly head-up time. As my rancher grandad always kept reminding me, "Hey, face your danger!"