There’s no stopping the rise of AI and it’s only a matter of time before it invades every aspect of our lives and society. In many ways it already has as AI is currently in our smartphones, our cars, our houses, our banks. It’s also present and helping in medicine, R&D, engineering, transportation, marketing, manufacturing, retail shopping, security, and many other fields. This of course is quite beneficial to humans. But on the other hand, there are serious concerns, if not fears, that artificial intelligence represents a profound transformation in human capability and pretty soon might be advancing to the point where it’ll be able to do everything way better we humans can. This will ultimately lead to us becoming not only replaceable as a work force but as Stephen Hawking was quoted as saying: “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”
Elon Musk, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal (NASDAQ:PYPL) and CEO of Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) and SpaceX is among those who shares this view. And it is precisely for this reason that he came up with the concept he calls the ‘neural lace’ — ‘the addition of a digital layer of intelligence to the human brain’. In short, a ‘direct cortical interface’.
Musk described neural lace as a brain-computer system that would connect human brain with a computer interface. It would supposedly enable humans to achieve “symbiosis with machines”, allowing them to communicate with computers without the need for a physical interface. A neural lace will theoretically prevent humans from becoming AI ‘house cats’ by helping humans keep pace with advances in AI.
According to Musk, humans have limited input/output (I/O). Specifically, our input is much better than our output. He said: “Your output level is so low, particularly on a phone, your two thumbs sort of tapping away…Our input is much better because we have a high-bandwidth visual interface to the brain, our eyes take in a lot of data. So there’s many orders of magnitude difference between input and output. Effectively merging in a symbiotic way with digital intelligence revolves around eliminating the I/O constraint, which would be some sort of direct cortical interface.”
Musk first brought up neural lace, otherwise known as direct cortical interface, during last year’s Recode’s Code Conference. Several months later, it seems we’re about to hear concrete developments about the concept. As he noted in a tweet, Musk is looking to hopefully update us on his progress with developing a neural lace system next month.
Aside from Musk, another notable personality who’s concerned with ensuring that humanity is not surpassed by AI is Braintree founder Bryan Johnson. In October 2016, Johnson committed $100 million to his company, Kernel, whose main objective is developing technology that will enable programming of our neural code. This will entail the building of a neural prosthetic to enhance and augment human intelligence — not just allow human-machine interface, but also go further by reducing our cognitive deficiencies to eventually allow us to fight off neurological diseases such as ALS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Every day, we keep finding out about new developments – stuff that some years back were only imaginable in science fiction movies, but have now been transformed into true-to-life realities. It’s scary and exciting at the same time. And with Musk’s intriguing reply about neural lace, next month brings with it a promise of even more interesting things to come.