Billionaire and serial entrepreneur Elon Musk as long been against artificial intelligence. He has previously showed his fear of the technology.
His long proposed method to prevent such things from happening, is to dig deeper into the technology, like using his company called OpenAI. And with another company, Neuralink, Musk as an advocate of merging man and machine, proposes a way to link a human brain with a computer.
On Thursday, Musk said that the final goal of Neuralink, his brain-machine interface startup, is to allow humans to “achieve a symbiosis with artificial intelligence,” and that by “merging with AI.”
By merging the human brains and computers, humans should be able to keep up with AI.
In a livestream announcement, Elon Musk said that:
"This is going to sound pretty weird. Ultimately we can achieve a symbiosis with artificial intelligence. This is not a mandatory thing, this is something you can choose to have if you want. This is going to be really important at a civilization-level scale. Even in a benign AI scenario, we will be left behind. With a high-bandwidth brain machine interface we can go along for the ride and have the option of merging with AI."
As a company, Neuralink has operated largely in secret since it was announced in 2017.
The company’s short-to-medium-term goals are to create computer chips that can be implanted into the brain to treat a variety of brain injuries and diseases, including paralysis, Alzheimer’s, and dementia. Musk said progress will be slow, and that the company will not suddenly unveil a chip that takes over people’s brain.
"This is something most people don’t understand yet. All of this will occur quite slowly. It’s not like Neuralink will suddenly have neural lace and start taking over people’s brains. It will take a long time, and people will see it coming."
Musk is famous for his moonshot projects and ambitions.
From creating one of the most notable and capable electric vehicles with Tesla, to launching rockets with SpaceX. And also with SpaceX, Musk wants to land men on Mars.
He also has side projects, like Hyperloop which aims to reinvent transportation by eliminating the barriers of distance and time using tubes that are not restricted by air or friction, and also the Boring Company which digs tunnels to create underground passages.
As for this Neuralink project, Musk said that the project involves planting a device consisting of a large number of “threads” thinner than a human hair.
According to Neuralink's team, these threads are already good for around 10 times more data acquisition than is possible with existing medical devices such as those used to treat Parkinson’s via Deep Brain Stimulation.
These threads are inserted into the recipient's brain in places where they can pick up the electrical signals from individual neurons. The chip then receives the signals to interpret all the data from the threads.
The person implanted with the chip would wear a “pod” behind the ear that then relays the data via Bluetooth to a phone or other device running the actual software that uses the neural data.
The method can also be used to eliminate the “compression” that happens when the brain translate thoughts into movements, like moving a mouse or typing on a keyboard. Taking away the need for the brain to compress signals to deliver it to organs and limbs, the method can create a direct communication between people and computers.
As a result, man-machine interaction should be much faster, lossless and very high bandwidth.
This has an existential step, because according to Musk's belief, the method should ensure that humanity can keep up with the increasingly advanced AI it’s developing. So to avoid a doomsday scenario where AI-powered robots take over, Musk's idea with Neuralink is to link humans with machines.
Just like most Musk's other ambitions, Neuralink's claims are taken very skeptical. But since brain-machine interfaces do show promises for treating people with brain injuries and diseases, Neuralink's approach could potentially help many people.
Musk plans for Neuralink's first human trial, to begin at the end of 2020.
"With a high bandwidth brain-machine interface we can actually go for the ride and have the option of merging with AI. This is very important," said Musk.