Artificial intelligence is overshadowing us in various aspects. It is not only beating us at poker or at the ancient Chinese game of Go, but it also wants to drive our cars, leading us to a near future where human input will be irrelevant. But, serial entrepreneur Elon Musk doesn't want that to happen.
Musk, the founder and CEO of Tesla Inc. and Space Exploration Technologies Corp, is among the individuals who are concerned about the prediction that AI will outpace humanity one day.
Musk wants our brains to keep up with machines, and to ensure that, he has now launched a new venture called Neuralink.
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The company, which doesn't have any public presence as yet, will reportedly focus on creating special devices that can be implanted in the human brain.
The plan is to eventually help our brains merge with software and remain relevant in an AI-dominated world with the help of a brain-computer interface.
We got a hint at a potential announcement of Neuralink last year when Musk talked about the possibility of a "neural lace" at the Code Conference 2016. According to him, a neural lace could be surgically connected to a human brain to optimise mental output.
Long Neuralink piece coming out on @waitbutwhy in about a week. Difficult to dedicate the time, but existential risk is too high not to.
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— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 28, 2017
The billionaire technologist also talked about the unconventional technology at the World Government Summit in Dubai last month when he said that "a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence" is something the world will probably see in near future.
"It's mostly about the bandwidth, the speed of the connection between your brain and the digital version of yourself, particularly output," Musk said. "Some high bandwidth interface to the brain will be something that helps achieve a symbiosis between human and machine intelligence and maybe solves the control problem and the usefulness problem."
When will Neuralink start upgrading human brainpower?
Not anytime soon. While the company's main objective is to connect brains to the cloud to create human intelligence that would match AI, the initial focus will be on diagnosis and treatment of brain conditions.
According to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the launch of Neuralink, the company will study how brain interfaces might ease the symptoms of serious medical conditions like epilepsy and major depressive disorder.
If successful, the new technology will not only help the existing therapies, using electrodes in the brain, better treat symptoms of Parkinson's, but will also help the company win the approval for initial human testing. Once all these early snags are cleared, the next and final step would be human augmentation.
Musk wants to beat AI, and he is not alone
Braintree co-founder Bryan Johnson is also trying to boost human cognition, and eventually make our neural code programmable. He created a startup, called Kernel, which has a growing team of neuroscientists and software engineers working on better remedies to combat neurological diseases, and ultimately repair our cognitive abilities.
Johnson wants humans to co-evolve with machines:
The biggest bottleneck in opening up this powerful new future is that we humans are currently highly limited in how we can participate in these possibilities. Our connection with our new creations of intelligence is limited by screens, keyboards, gestural interfaces and voice commands — constrained input/output modalities. We have very little access to our own brains, limiting our ability to co-evolve with silicon-based machines in powerful ways.
It does sound like a far-off idea, but it is happening for real.
Futurists like Johnson and Musk are exploring possibilities to transform ourselves in ways that exist today only in science fiction. Although this is just the beginning, the day is not too far away when our neural code will be become programmable just like biology and genetics.