Tim Urban’s “Neuralink and the brain’s magical future” is a deep dive on the evolution of the brain from the first nerve appearing in a sponge 600 million years ago all the way to the future of brain-machine interface (BMI). I like Urban’s explain-this-to-me-like-I-am-a-5-year-old blog posts. They are long but entertaining. You can tell he spends hours going down the rabbit hole and processing tons of information to extract what the reader needs to know and to select the funniest, weirdest, and most beautiful illustrations. The post came out as Elon Musk launches Neuralink, a company developing BMI to connect humans and computers. Neuralink is the latest addition to Musk’s electric car/mega-battery/rocket/hyperloop futuristic empire. Musk’s plan is to “bring something to market that helps with certain severe brain injuries (stroke, cancer lesion, congenital) in about 4 years. [And he thinks that] we are about 8 to 10 years away from this being usable by people with no disability.” Before that announcement, the timeframe for having commercial BMIs for people without disability was 2050. So let me bring this home: his plan could make BMIs part of the “how” of reaching the SDGs.
When asked why he invested in this field, Musk responds that he tried to raise the alarm bell about the possible dangers of artificial intelligence [remember? the group of concerned tech/scientists writing that warning letter] with no traction, so he decided to go ahead and develop BMI options for the social good.
Should we invite him to the UN for an early conversation about BMI governance issues? He may enjoy this trip back in time. But in addition I would suggest that someone from the UN flies to San Francisco now to convince Musk to add an ethicist to Neuralink’s 8-member core team.
UNEP Inquiry’s “The financial system we need” is the second edition of a report that takes stock of the financial system’s alignment with sustainable development. It records a steady growth of sustainable finance initiatives across the banking, investment, and insurance sectors; a rapid expansion of the green bond market ($118 billion); and a growing number of supporting policies and regulatory measures (210 in 60 countries). While these represent only a fraction of the global financial system (eg. green bonds account for less than 1% of total bond issuance), the green movement has successfully infiltrated the finance world over the past decade and offers a number of lessons and opportunities on which the social sector can build from the pricing of externalities to the design of new financial instruments to the engagement with the G20.
My visual this week is from the WEF’s gender gap report browser. It’s the visual story of a decade worth of gender data from 144 countries. It is not new but was nominated for the 2017 Webby Awards for best web campaign, eventually given to UNWomen for their “Women footprint in history“, also really cool.
My quote this week is from Feedback Labs Dennis Whittle’s interview with Denver Frederick “when you put people into a system that does not face competition and that is top-down, and it has too much power, you get a culture where people are trying to impress each other more than having an impact on the ground where they are working. They’re listening to the voice of their colleagues rather than listening to the voice of the people that they seek to serve. That creates strange dynamics that are really unfortunate and sad.”