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Academics and visionaries alike were on the edge of their seats this week as billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk announced plans for his brand new company, Neuralink Corp.
The firm was initially registered last July as a ‘medical research’ company in California, and was described as working on ‘neural lace’ technology that may one day allow humans to upload and download thoughts.
According to Mr Musk, who will be the chief executive of the start-up, the company aims to merge computers with brains via the implantation of tiny brain electrodes with the initial goal of helping the aged fight brain conditions that affect their cognitive abilities.
“The first use of the technology will be to repair brain injuries as a result of stroke or cutting out a cancer lesion, where somebody’s fundamentally lost a certain cognitive element,” Musk explained, speaking to Wait But Why.
“It can help with people who, as they get older, have memory problems and can’t remember the names of their kids, through memory enhancement, which could allow them to function well to a much later time in life.”
Short-term plans for the technology would also allow humans to communicate with each other in a new way without having to rely on ‘low-bandwidth’ methods such as talking or speech, Musk explained.
According to the billionaire business owner, the concept would simply change the interface by which we communicate using high-bandwidth enhancements, which he suggests would improve the process by “many order of magnitude” using a direct neural interface.
During the interview he explained: “The thing is that today, the interface all necks down to this tiny straw, which is, particularly in terms of output, it’s like poking things with your meat sticks, or using words—either speaking or tapping things with fingers. And in fact, output has gone backwards. It used to be, in your most frequent form, output would be ten-finger typing. Now, it’s like, two-thumb typing.”
However, Musk also revealed the firm’s long term plans to use the implants to help humanity avoid subjugation by intelligent machines and engage in “consensual telepathy”. Furthermore, Musk hopes Neuralink will successfully develop brain interfaces that will ultimately aim to replace human language as we currently know it.
In a separate interview with Y Combinator, Musk explained this idea, suggesting that the development of artificial intelligence and machine learning could soon become so sophisticated that humans will need to implant ‘neural laces’ in order to ensure their brains are capable of keeping pace with AIs.
“I think if we can effectively merge with AI, like improving the neural link between the cortex and your digital extension of yourself, which already exists but just has a bandwidth issue, then effectively, you become an AI-human symbiote,” he said.
“We don't have to worry about some evil dictator AI,” he added, “'because we are the AI collectively.”
“That seems like the best outcome I can think of.”