Oh, there he goes off to his room to write that hit song "Alone in my principles."
Question #89266 posted on 04/01/2017 7:56 a.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Did you hear that Elon Musk is launching Neuralink, which is a company meant to merge the brain with AI? What are your thoughts on this? It seems like that could go *so* poorly.

-My Name Here


Dear person,

It definitely seems like optional brain surgery is an unnecessary risk for a healthy person. That said, if they can figure out ways to help with neurocognitive disorders or serious psychopathology that hasn't responded to any other treatment, that would be really cool. If they can develop that technology ethically, all the power to them. 



Dear you,

It would have massive issues under current airport security protocols, but my guess is that anyone able to afford it when it first comes out will be able to afford a private jet. Or at least a time-share on a private jet.



Dear Lesser Life Form,

So here's the thing, AI is cool because it's getting better and better and it makes most of our lives easier (I love Siri on my phone and Google's voice assistant is good too). But there's a reason that Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Stephen Hawking and many others are warning the world about Artificial Intelligence. It's growing fast and we don't really know how that is going to impact society as a whole. So those people who are sending the warning signals, they aren't just saying "Beware!" they are saying that it's time to research societal effects of AI and how to handle super intelligent programs. Because if advancement in AI continues at the current rate, we will have robots who are at least as intelligent as humans (probably smarter) within our lifetime.

So Elon Musk's new company Neuralink is working on a new technology called "neural lace" which allows you to communicate with machines without a physical interface (i.e. without a keyboard, touchscreen, microphone, etc.) and instead we can control them with our minds. He explains in this interview that the reason he wants to do this is because AI research is advancing so quickly that AIs will be so much more intelligent than humans that humans will be to AIs like cats are to humans.

So how does Neuralink plan to solve this with controlling computers with our minds? The main problem with controlling computers is the "output" of a human. Humans can "input" information into our brains very quickly, I mean, we read pages quickly, see details in a room, smell and other kinds of sensations all at the same time. But it takes a long time to type something out on a computer or on your phone, you can't really even type and talk at the same time. Computers can input data AND output data very quickly. So Neuralink is trying to bridge that gap by making humans output data faster by using thoughts instead of typing words. 

Are they actually solving the problem? To a degree. Honestly, the reason Elon Musk is doing this is because no one else is doing it and he thinks it's important, so while that solution may not be the perfect solution, it's the beginning of a whole new kind of technology. But I'm excited for it. One of their first projects is going to make neural implants that will help people with degenerative diseases such as Parkinsons. Here's a quote from a guy working on that project:

"We know if we put a chip in the brain and release electrical signals, that we can ameliorate symptoms of Parkinson's,” Johnson told The Verge in an interview late last year. (Johnson also confirmed Musk’s involvement with Neuralink.) “This has been done for spinal cord pain, obesity, anorexia… what hasn’t been done is the reading and writing of neural code.” Johnson says Kernel’s goal is to “work with the brain the same way we work with other complex biological systems like biology and genetics.” (source)

There are obviously risks included in this such as all the difficulties of brain surgery, general distrust of chips in their brains and other things like that, but I think this is a great start to an incredible technology that will revolutionize the way humans interact with the technology around them and it's what is needed to keep up with advancing Artificial Intelligence. I won't be the first one to volunteer for brain surgery but I look forward to the day that I can look up a YouTube video on my TV at the same time as I turn on the microwave with for some popcorn and turn off all the lights in my house all by just thinking about getting those things done or writing a paper at the speed of thought or letting my wife know I'm thinking about her by just thinking about her. The future will be cool.