If we want to avoid becoming redundant with the artificial intelligence that is slowly surrounding us, we must merge with machines to stay relevant. That’s one of the messages that Tesla CEO Elon Musk shared at the World Government Summit in Dubai this week, which brings together prominent international thought leaders who dialogue about the future of governments to improve the lives of citizens worldwide.
“Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence. It’s mostly about the bandwidth, the speed of the connection between your brain and the digital version of yourself, particularly output,” Musk outlined to the leaders from 139 nations as he spoke during day two of the Summit.
What Musk is referring to here is often called “transhumanism,” or an enhancement of humanity’s capabilities through science and technology. To a certain degree, transhumanism is a daily reality for many people. We keep iPhones, tablets, and laptops on our persons now in a way that was rare a decade ago. So, too, do brain-computer interfaces assist individuals with disabilities, like enabling communication for persons with traumatic brain injuries or elevating motor control for patients with paralysis. In these cases, the brain via implanted electrodes signals and translates a motion command for a robot or cursor.
Musk adheres to the idea that humans need to harness and integrate that processing power, rather than keep it exterior. He analogized how we type as a way to communicate at the rate of 10 bits per second in comparison to a computer’s trillion bits per second. “Some high bandwidth interface to the brain will be something that helps achieve a symbiosis between human and machine intelligence and maybe solves the control problem and the usefulness problem,” Musk continued. These problems of “control” and “usefulness” can alleviate a future scenario in which, as artificial intelligence becomes more sophisticated, it could lead to mass unemployment. Suggesting that the categories of jobs that a robot can’t do better than humans will become fewer and fewer, Musk insisted that, to add value to the economy, we must augment our capabilities through this combination of biological and machine intelligence.
The risk if we fail to do so would be to become “house cats” to artificial intelligence, he says. Musk describes how he’s working on an injectable, mesh-like “neural lace” that fits on our brains to give them digital computing capabilities. These would allow swifter brain-machine interfaces and direct, nearly instantaneous interactions between our brains and external devices. What seems rather futuristic now would create neuroprosthetics for telepathic communication, additional memory, or sensory enhancement for night vision, as examples.
Musk also warned governments around the world to be alert to artificial intelligence developments and to closely monitor them, or else what emerges could threaten the public. He indicated that a close watch on the progress of artificial intelligence and how it is adopted across nations is necessary. “We need to be very careful about how we adopt AI, and make sure researchers don’t get carried away, because sometimes they get so engrossed in their work that they don’t realize the ramifications of what they’re doing,” said Musk. “I think it’s important for public safety that governments keep a close eye on AI and make sure it doesn’t represent a danger to the public.”
Sources: Wired, The Guardian