Tesla chief executive Elon Musk has launched Neuralink, a start-up which aims to develop technology that connects our brains to computers. A report from the Wall Street Journal, later confirmed in a tweet by Mr Musk, said the company was in its very early stages and registered as a "medical research" firm. The company will develop so-called "neural lace" technology which would implant tiny electrodes into the brain. The technique could be used to improve memory or give humans added artificial intelligence. According to the Journal, leading academics in the field have been signed up to work at the company which is being funded privately by Mr Musk.
Ed Finn is the author of "What Algorithms Want" (MIT Press). He is the founding director of the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University, where he is an assistant professor with a joint appointment in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering and the Department of English. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his. What Neuralink proposes (and narratives like the recently-rebooted "Ghost in the Shell" have explored for decades) is a world in which the mind can be edited like software, changing memories, beliefs or personalities at the stroke of a keyboard. But we've learned a lesson from the thickening layer of computation in our lives, turning every toaster and toothbrush into a "smart" device: be careful what you wish for in networked intelligence.
Elon Musk's brain computer interface (BCI) venture Neuralink will provide some more insight into what they've been working on for the past two years, during which time we've heard very little in the way of updates on their progress. In 2017, we learned that Neuralink's overall driving mission was to help humans keep pace with rapid advancements in AI, ensuring that we can continue to work with ever-more advanced technology by closing the input and output gap between ourselves and computers. Musk has famously forewarned of the potential dangers of artificial intelligence, and what happens when it becomes more powerful relative to our own ability to control and understand it. He also founded OpenAI alongside Sam Altman and others as a research organization hoping to collaborate on the development of AI specifically designed to benefit, not harm humanity. At Recode's Code conference in 2016, and again in 2017 at an event in Dubai, Musk discussed how BCI could help people communicate with computers with much higher bandwidth and lower latency than is possible now, using our relatively primitive input methods (keyboard, mice and touch all introduce a surprising amount of lag and fidelity loss if you think about it).
After weeks of anticipation, details on Elon Musk's brain-computer interface company Neuralink have finally been revealed. In a detailed report on the website Wait But Why, Tim Urban recounts insights gleaned from his weeks meeting with Musk and his Neuralink team at their San Francisco headquarters. He offers an incredibly detailed and informative overview of both Musk's latest venture and its place in humanity's evolution, but for those of you interested in just the big picture, here's what you really need to know about Neuralink. Right now, you have two primary "layers" to your brain: the limbic system, which controls things like your emotions, long-term memory, and behavior; and the cortex, which handles your complex thoughts, reasoning, and long-term planning. Musk wants his brain interface to be a third layer that will complement the other two.
In a recent podcast discussion Elon Musk had with AI expert Lex Fridman about artificial intelligence, consciousness, and Musk's brain-computer interface company Neuralink, an interesting question arose about Tesla's role as an educator in that realm. Referring specifically to the Smart Summon feature that's part of the company's Version ten firmware, Fridman asked Musk whether he felt the burden of being an AI communicator by exposing people for the first time (on a large scale) to driverless cars. To be honest, Musk's response wasn't really, well, responsive. He deferred to the more commercial-oriented goals of the company: "We're just trying to make people's lives easier with autonomy." The long-term goals of Neuralink are pretty scary for mainstream humans, so to me, this question really deserves a long sit-and-think.