It's no secret that ambitious Elon Musk doesn't think humans can quite keep up with machines. He's spoken about the impending displacement of human workers thanks to automation. He consistently reminds crowds to brace for a future in which artificial intelligence becomes normal. So how are humans going to compete with a future of robots? The SpaceX and Tesla CEO recommends implanting devices into the human brain to help mankind merge with software. He believes in it so much, he just backed a brain-computer interface company called Neuralink. The fledgling company, Neuralink, hopes its devices will improve memory and ease the conversation between man and bot.
Musk started talking about a computer-brain combination (or "neural lace") for several years. However, he's picked up steam in recent months. He responded to a question on Twitter in January suggesting that an announcement would come "next month."
@BelovedRevol Maybe next month
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 25, 2017
(Granted, that hint took place shortly after he was very serious about his boring tunnel company, so we focused on the prospect of underground interstates.)
In February at the World Government Summit in Dubai, Musk said the best way to brace for AI's rapid evolution might be "having some sort of merger of biological intelligence and machine intelligence."
A Vanity Fair profile quoted Musk as saying a "meaningful partial brain interface" could be possible in less than a decade. Nerualink makes that a possibility for Musk. However, some companies in Silicon Valley believe it could be even sooner.
The startup Kernel funds medical research from the University of Southern California in order to boost human brain function. Braintree co-founder Bryan Johnson spent $100 million of his own cash to invest in Kernel and its ever-expanding team of neural engineers.
"We know if we put a chip in the brain and release electrical signals, that we can ameliorate symptoms of Parkinson's," Johnson told The Verge in an interview. "This has been done for spinal cord pain, obesity, anorexia… what hasn’t been done is the reading and writing of neural code." Johnson noted that Kernel's purpose is to “work with the brain the same way we work with other complex biological systems like biology and genetics."
However, what Musk proposes is something beyond merely bypassing neurological defects. Neural lace could transform humans into an advanced piece of interactive software. The speed of our interactions with technology would increase to an unprecedented rate. Rather than typing out a text to a friend, we would merely have to think it.
Kismet, one of the world's first major basic AI systems that showed human expressions
[Image source: Wikipedia]
One outspoken proponent of this singularity is futurist, speaker and current Google Director of Engineering Ray Kurzweil.
"By 2029, computers will have human-level intelligence," he said during a SXSW panel.
“What I talk about, ultimately, that leads to computers having human intelligence, our putting them inside our brains, connecting them to the cloud, expanding who we are. Today, that’s not just a future scenario,” he said. “It’s here, in part and it’s going to accelerate.”
The concept of neural lace still requires a lot more research into both the human brain and developing technologies to live there. What's the most effective way to collect data from neurons? How do we then transmit that in a safe way to other technologies? What should these implants consist of in order to properly function? No doubt that Elon Musk will sink money into Neuralink to answer these questions and more. However, it might take a little longer than the 'at-most-10-years' prediction.
[Featured image source: Wikipedia]