ELON MUSK has a talent for describing the most comforting kind of crazy-ass futures. His vision—Mars rockets! Underground electric robot cars!—sells itself as the world of tomorrow, today.
That’s especially true of the latest Muskery, presented lately: a new iteration of Neuralink, a wireless implant that could someday give human brains a direct interface to digital devices.
Here are the most interesting things he said about the brain.
1.If we ask, “Are we headed towards a future where an AI will be able to outthink us in every way?” The answer is unequivocal yes.
2.“I think there is a lack of investment in AI safety. In my view, there should be a government agency that oversees anything related to AI to confirm that it does not represent a public safety risk. Just as there is the FDA for food safety, NHTSA for automotive safety, FAA for aircraft safety. We have generally come to the conclusion that it is important to have a referee that is serving the public interest and ensuring things are safe.”
3.How Elon describes the human brain: “ We’ve got like a monkey brain with a computer stuck on it. That is the human brain. A lot of our impulses are driven by our monkey brain. The computer—the cortex—is constantly trying to make the monkey brain happy. It is not the cortex that is steering the monkey brain. The monkey brain is steering the cortex.”
4.“The cortex is what we call human intelligence. That is like an advanced computer relative to other creatures. It seems like the really smart thing should control the really dumb thing, but actually the dumb thing controls the smart thing.”
5.“There is room for optimism given that the cortex [which is very intelligent] and the limbic system [which is not intelligent] work together well. Perhaps there can be a tertiary layer where digital superintelligence —which would be vastly more intelligent than the cortex—could coexist in a benign manner with the cortex and the limbic system.”
6.“I would argue that AI is something that has the potential to be dangerous to the public.”
7.“A car that is autonomous is a four-wheeled robot. An autonomous car will be an eye-opener to people about robotics. Most people have never seen a robot. It won’t be long before there are a million Tesla’s that have autonomous capability.”
8.“The probability of an injury or impact is much lower for Autopilot than it is for a person.”
9.“People get trapped in their squabbles with other humans. They don’t look at the big picture. They take civilization – and our continued existence – for granted. They shouldn’t do that. Look at the history of civilizations. They rise and they fall. Things don’t always go up. That should be an important lesson of history. “
10. “The universe appears to be 13.8 billion years old. Earth is 4.8 billion years old. In another half billion years or so the Sun will expand and evaporate the Oceans, making life impossible on Earth. This means if it had taken consciousness 10% longer to evolve it would have never evolved at all. I wonder how many dead one planet civilizations there are out there in the cosmos. The ones that never made it to another planet and were ultimately destroyed.”