The Black Mirror episode “The Entire History of You” tells a story of an alternative reality where everything we do is recorded by an implant called a “grain.” This allows us to replay any moment in the history of our lives in an instant. It seemed like this was just science fiction, but may soon become a science reality.
That revelation came at a recent TED talk given by Tom Gruber, the co-creator of SIRI. He believes that with advances in artificial intelligence, a device such as the one in the show is an inevitability.
People immediately began speculating on what this could mean and the implications it could have on society. As with all technological advancements, there are known positives and known negatives, along with unintended consequences that can’t be predicted.
Privacy advocates were the first to step up and warn about potential abuses of this technology. If everything everyone does is permanently recorded somewhere, even if it’s technology stored inside our heads (as in the show), there is potential for abuse.
In fact, there literally would be no more privacy at all. At no time could a person possibly sneak away and doing something in secret without it being recorded. That is a chilling thought for many people.
Advocates of the technology, however, point out that there are major positives. The first positive is that it could be used to treat people with major psychological disorders, such as schizophrenia. As it is now, that condition is treated with powerful antipsychotic medications that often make a person’s life miserable. If artificial intelligence could provide treatment for people with schizophrenia, it would be a major breakthrough.
It would also be a way to help victims of crimes get justice. For example, a woman who is sexually assaulted could provide footage of her attacker to the police. Just knowing that everyone is constantly filming may prevent many crimes against persons, or significantly reduce them.
It’s unclear exactly how this technology would work, but Gruber explains that is inevitable. As humans and computers approach the singularity (when computers become as intelligent as humans), we can implant that technology in our bodies to harness great powers.
As an example, if we had technology that immediately recognized a new person we met, we could instantly learn many details about them. In fact, there would be no more strangers — we would immediately know every detail about a person the moment we met them.
Gruber is sympathetic to the concerns of privacy advocates and understands that this technology must be kept secure. While he didn’t share details on how secure the technology might be, it is something that developers are working on as they fine-tune this technology.
With titans of the tech industry like Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk putting resources into artificial intelligence, it is inevitable that it’s coming. Just what that means for society, however, is anyone’s guess. The unintended consequences could be major positives or could be the end of civilization entirely. We’ll just have to wait and see.