Will tech companies ever be able to fully understand, manipulate or control consciousness?
It depends on how you define “consciousness.” If you define it as many scientists do—that is, as inert material (tissue and chemicals) interpreting experience via data coming in from the senses—then, yes. Technology companies may never be able to fully understand consciousness, but they will be able to use technology to imitate, manipulate and control it (they already have to some extent).
However, if you define “consciousness” as the ancient seers did—that is, as the subject and substrate to all experience—then, no. Consciousness isn’t an object, so it isn’t even something detectable using our senses. One must ask, if it’s not an object available to the senses, then how could it ever be manipulated or controlled?
Advaita Vedanta shows that the mind isn’t consciousness. Consciousness is that which comes before the mind; it’s the actionless, non-experiencing witness to it all. Most people aren’t able to make this distinction and assume the mind is consciousness. Scientists believe they’ve discovered consciousness but what they’ve really discovered is just the medium from which consciousness manifests—a reflection. A reflection of the sun isn’t the sun. They are looking at the mirror and saying, “Look, we’ve located the sun!”
The question also assumes that reality is a duality and only makes sense if you don’t have knowledge that reality is non-dual. For those with non-dual vision, the topic of technology ever manipulating and controlling consciousness is moot. It’s like a wave believing it can control the ocean. What hubris!
Lastly, should spiritual communities be concerned about science controlling "enlightenment"? They should be concerned they don’t have the right knowledge regarding consciousness (as should the scientists).
Note: This question originally appeared on Quora as the question: Will companies like neuralink/Google (with sufficient tech & computing) ever be able to fully understand, manipulate/control human consciousness? Should spiritual communities be concerned? What would become of spiritual enlightenment if that happens?