One of the most prolific technology entrepreneurs of all time is now venturing into high-level medical research to connect the human brain directly with computers by means of neural lace, which would allow a next-generation interface to ostensibly upload information to our minds. If the above premise sounds too much like science fiction, you may have already seen it in The Matrix film trilogy, whereby humans with data ports implanted on the back of their necks were able to instantly learn kung fu and other skills by connecting to computers and uploading data to their brains.
Brain-computer interfaces have been considered for some time; however, the involvement of Elon Musk is very promising due to his access to capital and his resolve to move projects very quickly. The immediate goal is therapeutic; Musk would like to develop technologies that can improve the quality of life for people who live with certain disabilities. This may entail enabling the use of computers for people who are paralyzed. The next step would be stimulation of the brain by means of electrodes; this would improve the lives of those who suffer from Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy.
The long-term goal proposed by Neuralink would be to accelerate the field of human augmentation, which means the acquisition of AI skills. When it comes to the development of artificial intelligence, researchers are seeing certain dichotomies emerge. For example, AI is already more proficient than humans at many mathematical and logical tasks such as playing chess and parsing through incredibly massive data sets. AI is even beginning to consider irrational thoughts needed to play against the top players of Go, the ancient Chinese game of capturing board territory with stones. Humans, however, are lagging behind AI, and this is something that concerns Musk.
Even with advanced machine learning and digital neural networks, AI constructs are still terrible at writing movie scripts or classical music masterpieces. AI cannot seem to understand, infer and empathize the way we do; nonetheless, researchers believe that this may be accomplished within the 21st century. In other words, AI will get better and smarter, but what about us? Will our dependence on AI supplant our cognitive processes? These are questions that keep Musk awake at night, and he is determined to start researching the possibility of connecting our brains directly to AI constructs so that we can keep up with their feverish pace of learning.