April 21, 2017

Musk’s Latest Startup Eyes Brain-Computer Links

George Leopold

(Phil Stafford/Shutterstock)

Elon Musk, the auto and space entrepreneur and severe critic of artificial intelligence, is forming a new venture that reportedly will seek to develop an interface between the human brain and computers.

The initial goal is aiding the disabled, but the visionary inventor reportedly views the AI startup as a way of forging non-verbal forms of communication while at the same time promoting ethical AI research.

Details of the new venture are sketchy, but according to several reports this week the new venture called Neuralink Corp. would assist researchers in keeping up with steady advancements in machine intelligence. Details of the AI interface startup were first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Neuralink’s proposed interface reportedly involves implanting “tiny electrodes in human brains.” On Thursday (April 20), Musk confirmed details of the startup, saying he would serve as chief executive. The startup’s initial goal is developing links between computers and the brain that could be used to assist the disabled.

Ultimately, Neuralink’s goal is to forge a new language Musk calls “consensual telepathy.”

More details about the neural startup emerged this week on the web site Wait But Why. Based on the assumption that spoken words are merely words “compressed approximations of uncompressed thoughts,” Musk explained the notion of consensual telepathy this way:

“If I were to communicate a concept to you, you would essentially engage in consensual telepathy. You wouldn’t need to verbalize unless you want to add a little flair to the conversation or something, but the conversation would be conceptual interaction on a level that’s difficult to conceive of right now.”

Asked about a timeline, Musk said a computer-brain interface for applications beyond the disabled remains nearly a decade away. “Genetics is just too slow, that’s the problem,” Musk asserted, according to the web site. “For a human to become an adult takes twenty years. We just don’t have that amount of time.”

Raising concerns about the societal implications of AI, Musk helped launch OpenAI in 2015 to redirect research toward “safe artificial general intelligence.” In launching OpenAI, Musk and his co-founders noted: “It’s hard to fathom how much human-level AI could benefit society, and it’s equally hard to imagine how much it could damage society if built or used incorrectly.”

Also in 2015, Musk donated $10 million to the Future of Life Institute that seeks to mitigate the “existential risks” posed by advanced AI.

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