May 24, 2024

Unless we act quickly, humans will be house pets to robots, says Elon Musk

Extraordinary musings from Silicon Valley entrepreneur

Elon Musk, billionaire co-founder of PayPal, and the boss of boss of Tesla and SpaceX, fears that Artificial Intelligence is advancing so fast that humans may end  up being house pets for robots.

He told a code conference at San Francisco that we are effectively already cyborgs; what is needed is an upgrade of our intelligence which he calls a “neural lace” injected into the brain. This would allow people to access the internet immediately and vastly improve human cognition. “Somebody’s gotta do it, I’m not saying I will. If somebody doesn’t do it then I think I should probably do it,” he told the conference.

This is not as crazy as it sounds. In a recent issue of Nature Neurotechnology researchers claim that they have injected neural lace into the brains of mice without ill effects. The wire and plastic mesh is so fine that it integrates into brain tissue and “eavesdrops” on neural chatter. It could become a way of communicating with the brain to help the disabled or to enhance performance. “We have to walk before we can run, but we think we can really revolutionize our ability to interface with the brain,” says a co-author, Charles Lieber, a nanotechnologist at Harvard University.  

The novel idea of neural lace is that it can be injected into the bloodstream and does not require complicated surgery.

However, another of Musk’s ideas does sound a bit crazy. He also mused at the code conference that our world is a computer simulation of our descendants far in the future. “There’s a one in billions chance that this is base reality,” Musk said. Here’s his argument:

The strongest argument for us being in a simulation probably is the following. Forty years ago we had pong. Like, two rectangles and a dot. That was what games were.

Now, 40 years later, we have photorealistic, 3D simulations with millions of people playing simultaneously, and it’s getting better every year. Soon we’ll have virtual reality, augmented reality.

If you assume any rate of improvement at all, then the games will become indistinguishable from reality, even if that rate of advancement drops by a thousand from what it is now. Then you just say, okay, let’s imagine it’s 10,000 years in the future, which is nothing on the evolutionary scale.

So given that we’re clearly on a trajectory to have games that are indistinguishable from reality, and those games could be played on any set-top box or on a PC or whatever, and there would probably be billions of such computers or set-top boxes, it would seem to follow that the odds that we’re in base reality is one in billions.
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