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Elon Musk says we're going to need brain implants to compete with AI

Get ready for your overlords.

FIONA MACDONALD
9 JUN 2016
 

Elon Musk claims that humans are at risk of becoming the dumb "house pets" of artificial intelligence, unless we implant technology into our brains to help us compete with machine learning of the future.

In a public talk and on Twitter last week, Musk announced that a 'neural lace' - which is basically a brain implant that can augment natural intelligence by hooking us up to computers - will be the key to maintaining our authority as a species.

 

"I don’t love the idea of being a house cat, but what’s the solution?" said Musk during a live interview at Recode's Code Conference in California on Wednesday. "I think one of the solutions that seems maybe the best is to add an AI layer. Just as your cortex works symbiotically with your limbic system, your third digital layer could work symbiotically with you."

Musk is one of the biggest supporters of AI, but he hasn't been shy in the past about his concerns over the future of machine learning, with the tech entrepreneur last year penning an open letter - along with Stephen Hawking and dozens of other researchers - on the need to investigate the societal impacts of AI.

His biggest worry is that AI will one day become smarter than humans - which could be a good thing when it comes to using them to help us cure diseases and solve global problems - but it also means that machines could one day come to think of us as little more than cute but dumb house pets.

And that's the best case scenario. The worst case scenario is that they get so fed up with all our waste-producing and CO2-generating that they simply decide to nuke us, à la Terminator.

And this is where the neural lace comes in. The term 'neural lace' was first coined by sci-fi novelist Iain M. Banks, and basically it's a mesh that can be implanted in humans to grow into the brain and allow neurons to be programmed and enhanced.

The goal is to connect the human brain to computers to allows us to keep up with their intelligence, or potentially even surpass it.

 

That sounds pretty futuristic, but scientists are already working on injecting our brains with new cells in order to improve them, and, last year, researchers actually managed to inject a neural mesh into the brains of mice, which was the first step towards creating an IRL neural lace.

"We’re trying to blur the distinction between electronic circuits and neural circuits," Charles Lieber from Harvard University, one of the researchers involved in the project, told The Smithsonian last year. "We have to walk before we can run, but we think we can really revolutionise our ability to interface with the brain." 

And according to Musk, it's something more companies should be looking into, and all of us should be thinking about.

So how would a neural lace work in humans? Musk admits that brain surgery would be risky, but said that in the future the mesh could be injected "into the jugular", and then work its way into your skull through the bloodstream.

That doesn't sound much fun, but if the alternative is being a machine house pet, then maybe it's not too terrible.

Oh and if that's not enough to wrap your head around, Musk also thinks there's only a "one in billions" chance that we're not already all players in some advanced civilisations video game. So... there's that. Have a great day, guys!

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