It’s an understatement to say that Elon Musk has numerous irons in the fire at any given time. What we want to explore in this post is the one that has resulted from, or is at least based on, Mr. Musk’s provocative statements regarding Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the need for humans to interface and integrate with it at the physiological level. According to Musk, brain implants are thought to be a logical route to achieve such integration, and the way to get there is the iron in the fire called Neuralink.
Musk, along with several other investors, founded the company Neuralink in 2016, with the short-term goals of the organization revolving around the idea of treating diseases of the brain. The longer-term goals involve creating brain implants that will result in a symbiotic relationship between the human brain and AI. If we are to survive in a world where AI has become superior to Homo sapiens in most, if not all, areas of intelligence, Musk insists that we, us obsolescing humans, must begin exploring the idea of brain implants. The very idea is the stuff of dystopian science fiction.
Although there are certainly many aspects of this most serious of pursuits to consider, one quite intriguing component of brain-AI interface is the idea that, as we begin talking about introducing changes to the inherent physiological landscape of the human brain, we are possibly confronted with an event in human evolution from which we cannot return.
What does it mean, after all, in terms of evolution and the future of the human species, to say that we are embarking on the very alteration of the human brain’s fabric for the express purpose of preventing annihilation by AI? We can’t possibly be fully prepared for such pursuits. Although, to be fair, nor are we in any way prepared for the potential of AI to surpass human civilization, or, at the very least, to control every aspect of it.
Musk operates in the world as a bit of a lightning rod when it comes to disruptive technologies, such as electric automobiles (Tesla), rockets (SpaceX), tunnel construction (The Boring Company), and the (so far) ill-fated idea of the hyperloop.
When visionaries are well-stocked with funding dollars, as Musk most certainly is, amazing things can happen. With regard to Neuralink, we’ll have to wait and see. In some ways, however, it’s not so important that the company is successful or not; it’s the idea that the effort is being made in the first place. Surely an inevitable result will be more startups formed with this and other terrifying and tantalizing ideas in mind. Unintended consequences will undoubtedly occur. I, for one, can’t wait.