Elon Musk’s brain-computer interface plans are creepy and exactly the kind of AI you dread

With Neuralink, Elon Musk is wanting to build an AI that is interfaced with your brains. Creeped out already?

Mind Reading Helmet

Humans are driven by emotions and sentiments. Their outlook to the surrounding is quite subjective rather than being driven algorithms or binary codes like 01101100011010010110011001100101. Being the most intelligent species on this blue planet, humans have sporadically played God. From cloning to genetic-level modifications, there are numerous such instances. Of late, the focus has shifted to Artificial Intelligence (AI). Perhaps your first-level interactions with AI have already happened. From Apple’s Siri to Amazon’s Alexa, the so-called assistants are actually your personal assistants, assisting you in your daily lives with bare minimum distraction.

Ask some silly questions to Siri, get some witty responses, and no harm done. Right? Of course, AI is at a very nascent stage but quite smart or dumb, as you may perceive, even in its budding years. The different forms of AI around us are constantly improving, getting upgrades and more importantly getting smarter. Like most of you, even I dread the day AIs get better than us and then get better of us. Even though I hail accomplishments like Google DeepMind’s victory over Go Player champion, I seriously don’t want AIs to peak after a certain level, where we have lost control only to be left as the ‘second’ most intelligent species on this planet.

Even as tech companies are working, at surprisingly good pace, to improve the current AI, a few have envisioned slightly different versions. Elon Musk, the man who is known for his ambitious plans like electric cars, solar-powered homes, reusable rockets, sending people to Mars and so on, has also joined the fray with Neuralink. His idea of AI is building an interface between your brains and the computer. Elon Musk’s AI is more of an extension of yourself that is most probably bit more smart and efficient. I am sure you’re already wondering if it’s something like The Matrix. Perhaps. Musk hopes to build something that will keep a check on AI – an apprehension raised by the likes of Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates.


According to Tim Urban of Wait But Why, Musk is working to merge human brains and AI that will cope with the super-intelligent AIs. “He [Musk] believes that the solution to reduce existential risk is to be able to high bandwidth interface with AI. He thinks that if we can think with AI, it allows AI to function as a third layer in our brain, where we could have AI that’s built for us. So we have human intelligence and then we have artificial intelligence, and they’re both us and so we become AI in a way,” Urban is quoted as saying. ALSO READ: Neuralink and the Brain’s Magical Future

Urban admits this is indeed creepy but hopes that with everyone having his own AI, there will be nothing for the AI to conquer anything. “It’s much safer in a weird way, even though it gives us all a lot more power. It’s like you don’t want one Superman on earth, but if you have a billion Supermen then everything is okay because they check and balance each other,” he adds. ALSO READ: A quick guide to Elon Musk’s new brain-implant company, Neuralink

Essentially, Urban is saying that if each country on the planet had a nuclear bomb, there’d be no nuclear war ever. Well, the AI is not like the nuclear bomb, but the fear from it, in my opinion, is quite at the same level. At the moment, when we think about the AIs, we think of a smarter holographic image of a person that has all the answers and knowledge. But would we want to give away everything that our brains have to create a smarter version of yourself? I would not, for one. Perhaps I am okay to see an AI as a third person and neutral face rather blended with my personal history, dark desires, and fears that I’d never acknowledged or even document. Most probably I’d be livid and submerged into inferiority complex after seeing a smarter version of myself.

In case you’re wondering, brain-computer interface concept is not really new. The basic versions of the interface are already lending support to people with disabilities, allowing hearing capabilities to auditory impaired, letting visually challenged to see, and lending a limb with prosthetics. Researchers are already working to connect the 100 billion neurons in our brain to make us do things that seem ‘super human’ at the moment. Making an AI out of the brain-computer interface, of course, seems plausible but will be an overkill.

Fortunately, Musk’s plans don’t involve connecting wires to the back of your neck to summon the AI, but wirelessly with the cloud. That being said, Musk’s few observations about us are quite intriguing. One of them is that we are already becoming a cyborg. “You’re already a different creature than you would have been 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago. I think people — they’re already kind of merged with their phone and their laptop and their applications and everything,” he mentioned. ALSO READ: Google I/O 2017: Artificial Intelligence-first finally becomes a thing

Contrary to his opinion, I’d like to believe our dependence on internet, smartphones, and applications is more based on our necessities rather the novelty. The apps and the magical world of the internet are just filling gaps that we perhaps had overlooked for a while. For an example, before Facebook, there was Orkut or Myspace, and after Facebook, there’ll be something else. But I doubt we are ready now or will ever be in at least the next decade, to give away everything we possess to upload our brains to the cloud. Had the Man of Steel been real, and I were the Kal-El, I’d be freaked out to see my dead father, wandering around in the abandoned ship. Perhaps, I am okay to talk to an invisible AI with robotic-accent. Mind uploading in fiction – Wikipedia


  • Published Date: June 19, 2017 3:44 PM IST