Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk once famously declared that he fears artificial intelligence will someday overtake humans. Now, he’s helping assert the dominance of humans over machines by starting a new venture that reportedly merges human brains with computers. The mysterious new company could change how humans and machines interact.
Neural Lace Technology
The company, called Neuralink, is in very early stages of development. Reports say it is a brain-computer interface venture that will help humans keep up with robotic advancements. The company’s ultimate goal is to build a device that can be implanted in the human brain and that can perform a number of tasks while being able to merge software with our brain so we can keep up with AI. The “neural lace” technology would allow people to communicate directly with machines without using a physical interface.
Electrodes would reportedly be implanted in the brain so people could upload or download their thoughts to or from a computer. Some features will apparently include memory enhancement by creating additional, removable storage areas that allow human brains to function faster and more efficiently.
Neural lace technology could have a number of applications aside from simply increasing cognitive functions. Some of its first tasks could be to treat disorders like major depression or epilepsy, and it could then go on to fuel other advances in the medical field.
Musk, the CEO of innovative companies like Tesla and Space-X, has been talking about a device like what Neuralink is creating since at least 2016. “The solution that seems maybe the best is to have an AI layer,” he said at the time, noting that humans need to add AI technology to their own brains.
“A third, digital layer that could work symbiotically.” Because the company is so new, it does not yet have a public presence, but Musk said more details will be released soon. It is believed Musk will fund almost the entirety of the company.
The idea behind neural lace is pulled straight from science fiction and was first mentioned in the Culture series by British novelist Iain M. Banks. The books tell the story of humans growing semi-organic mesh on their cerebral cortexes to communicate directly with AI and essentially creating a backup of their brains. Although the idea may seem far-fetched, Neuralink wants to turn fiction into reality.
Power of AI
Musk’s involvement in the project shines more light on the topic and begs the question: can robots and AI actually take over humans? There’s no conclusive answer, but Musk isn’t alone in his thinking that humans could be at risk to become second-class citizens to machines.
“If greater-than-human artificial general intelligence is invented without due caution, it is all but certain that the human species will be extinct in very short order,” said MetaMed Research CEO Michael Vassar. Renowned scientist Stephen Hawking considers AI to be a huge threat to humanity, stating that AI development could take off on its own and leave humans in the dust.
With experts emphasizing the potential danger of AI, it makes sense that entrepreneurs and researchers are looking for ways to enhance humans.
Neuralink isn’t the only technology of its kind currently in development. Braintree founder Bryan Johnson is investing $100 million in software that makes a neuroprosthesis that can unlock the human brain and make the neural code programmable in an effort to understand and manipulate the human brain.
Being able to change neural code unlocks unknown possibilities, including the potential ability to remove disorders like Parkinson’s Disease and ALS and to change a person’s personality simply with a few new lines of neural code.
Facebook’s secret hardware division, Building 8, is also reportedly working on a program similar to neural lace that would allow people to communicate with external devices using non-invasive technology.
Elon Musk’s involvement in Neuralink brings more attention to technology that could change the future.