Back during his time at Stanford in the early 90s, Elon Musk sat down and thought to himself, ‘what are the single greatest challenges that humanity is likely to face in the future?’ Based on this thought-process, the South African entrepreneur came up with four ambitious areas he hoped to be involved with:
- Sustainable/autonomous transportation
- The internet
- Making life multi-planetary
- Artificial Intelligence
After co-founding PayPal in 1998, he’d ticked off the internet. He went on to found Tesla, who’ve revolutionised electronic cars, Solar City – a sustainable energy company, and SpaceX – who are hellbent on making Mars habitable for humans within a very ambitious time frame. Being at the helm of three diverse and hyper-complex companies would be enough for most people, but not Elon.
Reports suggest he’s now backing Neuralink, a company developing devises that can be implanted in human brains and effectively merge humans with software to keep pace with advancements in artificial intelligence.
“Over time I think we w will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence.” He added that, “it’s mostly about the bandwidth, the speed of the connection between your brain and the digital version of yourself, particularly output.”
Musk has spoken at great length about his fears regarding advancements in artificial intelligence, and how AI could become so intelligent that it overtakes us, effectively rendering humans as second class citizens.
The impact of a Neuralink device would be profound on humanity. Initially, they’d be able to act as memory cards. Places where you can literally download thoughts, memories or ideas to ensure they’re not forgotten. Eventually the devices will become so sophisticated that external devices (iPhones, tablets, laptops etc) will be obsolete, as humans become digitalised.
In the medium term, such devices could provide significant improvements to suffers of neurodegenerative disease. “We know if we put a chip in the brain and release electrical signals, that we can ameliorate symptoms of Parkinson’s,” Braintree founder Bryan Johnson told The Verge in 2016.
“This has been done for spinal cord pain, obesity, anorexia… what hasn’t been done is the reading and writing of neural code.” Neuralink’s ultimate goal is to “work with the brain same way we work with complex biological systems like biology and genetics.”