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March 30, 2017updated 07 Jul 2022 11:55am

Ghost in the Shell: A fantastical future of hacking minds & cyborgs that may already be a reality

Would you be prepared to risk your body being the target of a cyber attack?

By Tom Ball

Artificial intelligence (AI), and the synergy between man and machine are explored deeply in Ghost in the Shell, a film that may well be set in a fantastical future but it’s not really so far away.

Scarlett Johansson plays a cyber-enhanced human designed to be the perfect soldier, a weapon to take on terrorism and crime. A new level of cyber security is also brought to life in the film, with the threat of an adversary hacking into the human mind, breaching the last biological bastion we have still standing.

Ultimately the main character attempts to harness the duality of being both human and machine, a realistic possibility that the future holds as devices becoming constantly more integrated within our lives. As innovations in wearable technology for payment and other purposes move forwards, the concept of implanted tech seems imminent.

Elon Musk for example just helped to launch a new company called Neuralink that aims to provide an interface between a human brain and a computer.

The integration of AI however holds a host of other possibilities beyond physical bionic advantages, as a kind of optimisation of the biological human mind could take place, creating a being with supernatural potential.

CSO at Vectra Networks, Gunter Ollman explores this avenue and said: “Just as Ghost in the Shell took its inspiration from Arthur Koestler’s Ghost in the Machine with his thoughts behind the mind-body relationship, recent advancements in security technology see AI taking over much of the ‘muscle-memory’ work of repetitive investigation and response processes.”

The main character is an embodiment of what is being pursued in automation by security providers, a constantly active, indomitable force that leaves no stone unturned. This is a common talking point among cyber defenders, as there is no safe moment in the current threat landscape, and defence procedures must be constant and meticulously thorough.

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Mr Ollman said: “In a world of rapidly diversifying threats and ever-growing attacks, AI is building an automated front-line security analyst in software that never sleeps and relentlessly hunts for active threats. In a similar way, ‘Major’ relentlessly seeks to complete her mission in Ghost in the Shell. She grasps and enables the best of both human and cyborg worlds – operating faster with the benefit of a global field of intelligence from which she can make more informed decisions.”

As humans we are driven to constantly progress with a voracious appetite, to enhance our lives and the procedures within them, but can we end up too far down the hole to dig our way back out? We are now immersed in a new cyber landscape in which the professionals who are at the cutting edge of defence technology cannot guarantee our cyber wellbeing. This prospect is all the more terrifying if the contents of your mind were also vulnerable to a hacker.

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