Thursday 27 October 2016

Elon Musk: Become cyborgs or risk humans being turned into robots' pets

James Titcomb

Published 03/06/2016 | 08:40

Elon Musk of SpaceX and Tesla with Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Elon Musk of SpaceX and Tesla with Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Elon Musk, the billionaire boss of Tesla and SpaceX, has said that humans need to become cyborgs to avoid becoming “house cats” for vastly more intelligent robots.

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Musk said that as artificial intelligence advances, people will need to augment their brain power with digital technology to prevent them becoming irrelevant.

He backed the idea of a “neural lace” – a new electronic layer of the brain that would allow us to instantly access online information and greatly improve cognitive powers by tapping into artificial intelligence.

“Under any rate of advancement in AI we will be left behind by a lot. The benign situation with ultra-intelligent AI is that we would be so far below in intelligence we’d be like a pet, or a house cat. I don’t love the idea of being a house cat,” he said at San Francisco’s Code Conference.

“The solution that seems maybe the best one is to have an AI layer. A third digital layer that could work symbiotically [with your brain].”

Scientists have already begun work on a neural lace, successfully testing the concept with mice by injecting them with a device. They believe it could be used for monitoring the brain to fight diseases, or to improve cognitive power.

Musk, who made billions from PayPal and has ambitions to colonise Mars, said he did not know of a particular company working on neural lace, but that he was tempted to invest in the technology himself.

“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 said.

Musk said the scenario in which humans are turned into pets was the optimistic one, and that the true consequences of artificial intelligence could be much worse. Last year he launched a $1bn fund into research on saving humanity from AI, and has joined Professor Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates in warning about the dangers.

He also updated attendees on the progress of the Tesla Model 3, the company's first mass-market electric vehicle, saying the design will be finished in six weeks.

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