As reported by The Wall Street Journal, Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has committed his support for another startup company. This time, he is funding Neuralink, a brain-computer interface venture that was primarily founded to ensure humans will be able to compete and not get left behind by advancements made in machines or AI (artificial intelligence). Neuralink intends to achieve this by creating brain-implantable devices (or neural implants) that can help improve memory and allow more direct interfacing with computers.
This latest initiative validates what Musk has always been very openly concerned about — the threat that AI will one day surpass human intelligence, and the prospect that this will ultimately lead to AI taking over, downgrading humans to second-class citizens. The solution for this, he says, is to find a way to create some kind of symbiosis with computers — merging biological intelligence with digital intelligence — so that human intelligence can keep up with AI.
Last year during a Code Conference (CC), Musk first brought up the concept of a ‘neural lace‘ — a surgical connection that will allow the human brain to directly interact with a computer, negating the limitations caused by existing touch or voice input methods such as mouse, keyboards, trackpads and microphones. In short, it’s a way to install computers inside the brain, using tiny electrodes that connect directly to the brain’s neurons. With such a set-up, which according to Musk is ‘roughly four or five years away’, you can do what you basically do with a normal computer simply by thinking, no need to type or give a voice command. In other words, you can directly harness computing power with your brain.
Since the CC event, Musk has tweeted that some progress has been made on the tech, but no specifics have been given. Now that his involvement with Neuralink has been revealed, maybe the picture will become a bit clearer.
Neuralink is registered as a ‘medical research company’ and will be pursuing Musk’s ‘neural lace’ ambition. Based on available information, the company will initially focus on building devices that can help diagnose and treat neurological conditions. Because even with advancements in technology, many people will still shy away from getting brain implants unless it’s out of necessity and possibly a last resort, like treatment for neurodegenerative conditions such as epilepsy, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.
Eventually, though, Neuralink will likely branch out to more science fiction stuff like building devices that aim to enhance human cognitive abilities, or maybe even build human-android hybrids.
Along the same lines, another notable personality who shares Musk’s view that humans should be able to keep up with AI is Bryan Johnson. Aside from co-founding Braintree, he is likewise the creator of startup Kernel, a company whose focus is also on enhancing human cognition through implantable devices that can turn brain-computer interface into reality.
As Neuralink and Kernel strive to develop the technology that can supposedly preserve our place in the world as the superior race, we can only root for them and hope that they are able to do it in time. Before the AIs take over, that is.