The dream — or nightmare — of virtually instantaneous human-machine communications is a long-standing science fiction trope. Japanese aficionados have feasted on the concept for 30 years, since the publication of “Ghost in the Shell,” a story of police and political intrigue in a world in which human beings and computers are networked and the heroine is a cyborg — a human brain in the body of a robot.

The real world took a step closer toward that vision this week with the announcement by Neuralink that it has developed a robot that could implant threads deep inside the brain to facilitate communications between humans and machines. The prospect of a genuine link between the two remains a distant prospect, but we must as a civilization begin to grapple with the legal and ethical dimensions of this future and ensure that it proceeds in ways that advance, and not undermine, our interests as a species.

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