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Elon Musk has been warning the world for years about artificial intelligence (AI). He has spoken out about his own hesitations about the rate in which machines and AI have been developed to become more integrated in everyday life. Musk has even gone to the lengths of comparing AI research to “summoning the devil” and creating “an immortal dictator from which we could never escape”.

Even though he intently believes that artificial intelligence may be the start of the next world war, Musk still knows that its presence in evolving human life cannot be prevented.  So, Elon Musk recently started working on a new project to help combat the fears associated with the manifestation of AI in the modern lifestyle. Most of his warnings stem from AI technologies learning and developing at a much faster rate than us, thus eventually finding ways to make us mortal beings the “used” as oppose to the “user”. But what if we had the power to communicate with interfaces at a comparable speed, and had a much deeper connection with these powerful robots?

Musk’s new company, Neuralink, is currently working on a project that will allow the technology of an AI to be inserted into the human brain using “neural lace” technology.  “Neural lace” is a small, net-like material that is injected into the skull to expand and eventually embed itself into the organic tissue. The implanted web acts as a circuit board in conjunction with the internet to create another part of one’s “self”; the “AI self”. As mammals, we have different systems controlled by the brain such as the respiratory system, nervous system, and muscular system. The limbic system is one that humans have mastered in its regulation of emotions, memory, and behavior.  Neuralink plans for the addition of this personal AI technology to act as another system of the body, operating similarly to the limbic system. The technology will not only allow for users to have their own AI, but it will allow users to be AI.  

Neuralink may seem wildly contradictory to Eon Musk’s beliefs about AI in our universe, so how does he justify this product as being a “safer” version of artificial intelligence? Musk states that this implanted technology will be good preparation for the continually advancing AI to come. By essentially “upgrading” our brains, humans will be able to think at the same speed as AI, which will allow for more compatible conversations.  The conversation between a user and their personal AI, as designed by Neuralink, will be much more intimate than a conversation with an external machine. Musk assures us that living with a Neuralink upgrade will simply be as if the user is having an internal conversation with their own “AI Self”. This might then beg the question, is this technology AI or another internal self? The answer is both. Because the AI is now part of the organic tissues, it relies on the user to control it, thus melding the AI’s “identity” with the identity of the user. This concept is extremely difficult to understand because it is so foreign, but the process will allegedly make it much more difficult for AI technology to “go rogue” as Musk has predicted.

Neuralink is not just about preparing humanity for the invasive nature of AI.  The program is also meant to help elevate our senses and better our lives as a whole.  Personal AI “selves” will be able to enhance our emotional communication and understanding of one another through telepathy.  Absent of vocal language, there will be much less miscommunication. Speaking aloud takes a pure thought, and filters it through a limited amount of words that make up a comprehensible sentence. The “pure communication” will also allow for a more efficient form of brainstorming, introducing collective thinking. Because the technology is implanted in the user’s brain, it will also be able to aide in the treatment of some disabled patients.  The AI technology could help reverse the effects of memory loss, loss of sight, sensory and nerve damage, along with many other debilitations.

The final question that should be asked is: How will this affect us? Will this new implanted technology turn all of humanity into mindless androids by taking away individuality and creativity? It would be linking our brains to the universal internet, but this will actually give users room to be even more creative and expressive than they currently are now. Individuals will be able to access all kinds of information and skills and will be able to personalize themselves in much deeper ways. Neuralink seems like it is preaching a lot of science-fiction, but there is actually a reputable business working on researching and experimenting with the technology.  It may all seem so far out of reach, but the super-human future may not be as impossible as we may have previously thought.