The kids of the wealthiest families in David’s class start showing up to school with a small blue light at their temples. Turns out this light is a surgically implanted neuro-enhancer called the “Pilot” that lets users multitask. Suddenly, kids with the device start pulling ahead in their schoolwork, and kids without the enhancement fall woefully behind to the point of being sequestered in “Special Ed” classes.
David wants one, but his family is just eking by financially and cannot afford it without sacrificing other needs like getting a car repair and fixing of a sagging roof. One of his moms, Julie, would love one herself and is all in for him keeping up with his peers. His other Mom Val worries about the impact of this to the brain, which they’ve seen disfunction in his adopted younger sister’s uncontrolled brain seizures from epilepsy. The same starts to apply to adults in the workplace: Julie getting one to help with her keep up with political work and colleagues who all have them, while Val holds back from getting one and ends up sequestered as a teacher for the un-enhanced kids. Given the current parental frenzy to help kids get ahead in life and adults striving for work success, it’s easy to imagine going from needing to have the latest smartphone or smart watch to a promised low risk brain enhancement. Who hasn’t dreamed of a knowledge chip our brains could tap seamlessly?
And so you’re powerfully drawn into a near future world with emergent tech enhancements of humans- with an eerie overlay similar to the Black Mirror TV series of technology run amuck. From the opening focus on the tiny blue light emanating in a temple of those with the Pilot installed, you’re left worrying about the risk of this bio-embedded tech. What happens if it misfunctions or gets hacked? Could users’ brains be damaged, or could they lose autonomous control? Should the government be regulating or overseeing this tech?
With rapid developments in biotechnology and nanotechnology, brain-machine interfaces have already made their experimental appearance today, mainly for therapeutic purposes such as controlling epileptic seizures, restoring mobility to those with paralysis and giving partial sight to people with blindness. Computing and nanotechnology discoveries have already resulted in tiny computers that can interface with our brains, which makes sense as both our brains and computers run on electricity. These early developments all promise machine technology that will become imbedded in humans to make us smarter, stronger, and even healthier. Some even talk of a “new species” of trans-humans, where computers, machines and biology become entwined. But inevitably comes concerns about a widening gap between the haves and the have-nots, and the risks inherent with this embedded technology. A recent New York Times article focused on some profound personality changes of those with brain-implants to help control epileptic seizures.
As this powerfully thought-provoking book unfolds, with chapters alternatively narrated by David, Sophie, Val, and Julie, you’re riveted at how each of their lives becomes intensely impacted by the Pilot technology. Meanwhile the powerful corporation behind the devices has been withholding adverse reactions, including the inability to turn the multitasking off, acute noise sensitivity, and the requiring of brain thanks to neural plasticity. And they’ve been developing drugs marketed for ADD that can address the malfunction issues, along with playing nefarious politics.
From ardent protestors to passionate adopters, the story rushes you forward into a scarily believable future. You’re enveloped in a world of future tech that verges of the emergent in our world today, with all the ethical and morality issues up for grab.
What an amazing read!!!
Thanks to Netgalley for an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book.