Elon Musk Can’t Save Us from the Singularity

If you could give your brain a performance boost, would you? Mastermind Elon Musk’s latest venture, Neuralink, aims to augment our minds by implanting chips into our brains that allow us to directly interface with machines.

It’s equal parts amazing and terrifying.

Linking our brains with machines is not a new idea, but it has never been so within reach. Musk has a way of making the implausible, plausible, and has a track record of bringing incredible ideas to life. One might wonder if he himself is already operating with an augmented brain…after all, he is a “walk the walk” type of entrepreneur (the kind who builds rockets so he himself can die on Mars). In an ideal world, Musk’s Neuralink would mean incredible advancement for the human race; we can treat brain diseases and people can be smarter, kinder, happier, with augmented brains that allow them to learn and process faster. But as we all know, we live in a far-from-ideal existence, and it is more likely that these interfaces will do something far more harmful to society: create a human-computer super-race.

You see, Musk is a humanitarian second, entrepreneur first. These brain-computer interfaces will not be free. So unless a computer chip that augments human intelligence is less expensive than last year’s iPhone, what we can expect to see is the wealthy getting smarter/better/faster/stronger and the less well-off staying exactly where they are. This creates a socioeconomic divide the likes of which we haven’t seen since the medieval times, when education was reserved for royalty and everyone else left to figure things out with their limited resources. The internet has made learning accessible to the masses – but an augmented human brain could theoretically learn 2x, 3x, 10x the speed of your standard issue bio brain. So even if everyone on the planet has access to the same resources online, the 1% with fancy machine-learning brains will be able to consume it at a much faster rate.

This turns information itself into a commodity. Intelligence becomes quantifiable. The divide between the rich and the poor exceeds any Robin Hood’s capabilities, because you can’t simply download intelligence to a regular old brain. The entirety of humanity will enter a race for intelligence, and we will forgo more and more of our humanity to augment ourselves to be able to be a little bit better than our neighbors, just a little bit more, more, more. Meanwhile, the rest of us are left second-class citizens, unable to keep up with our augmented counterparts who are zettabytes of learning ahead of us. In our attempt to not be left behind in the singularity, we will leave our old definition of “human” behind, and those who remain human will be severely disadvantaged.

Some believe that Elon Musk’s brain-computer interfaces will save us from the singularity, but at the end of the day, the singularity will still come. Machines will eventually equal and surpass human computational capability. The only question is, will those machines be us?

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5 thoughts on “Elon Musk Can’t Save Us from the Singularity

  1. Like everything, wealthy private money will fuel the “first adopter” versions of this chip yes. Peter Thiel and Musk will be on the leading edge and billionaires will be controlling things with their minds through IoT neural interfaces, learning karate like The Matrix, etc.

    But the cost of the tech will ultimately drop. Same as computers were originally for “the rich” now they are super inexpensive devices.

    The scary part is that virtual reality will become reality for poor people. They will enjoy being plugged in moreso than they enjoy life. Leading to this dystopian headset plugged in life. You work in a neural net, you shop in a neural net, you game there. You unplug only for bio reasons (until that issue is solved somehow, ew). Really going towards something like the matrix. People can become fully integrated with the net if they choose.

    I don’t know if it will make intelligence like your ability to innovate and be creative increase, it will just make Googling so immediate that memorizing facts in a university will be even less useful. Everyone would immediately have access to all medical articles ever created, cross-reference and return the data needed to make decisions.

    “The future comes one day at a time” and it will likely follow our typical consumer adoption trends like cellphones, etc. It will be insidiously tempting for the weak of mind. But those people are already knee-deep in Facebook 24/7 anyways…

    BSC

  2. (Sorry please delete the previous comment as I sent the wrong version)

    Hi Sage,

    This is the first time I have read your blog, I was attracted by its title which suggests we need saving from the singularity. But you are saying that the use of Elon Musk’s chip won’t be of proficient enough use to prevent the singularity.

    I was very interested in your thoughts that suggest the main problem with brain implants is that they won’t be available to everyone, just the 1%. You then talk about the internet, which when it originally came out was only used by a small percentage of the population – mostly scientists at research institutes which had mainframe computers. Now most people in the Western world have access to the internet because of cheap PC’s and other devices to use it on.

    Computer chips are relatively cheap, and Moore’s law says they should become more powerful and cheaper. The big expense will be the surgery that implants and connects the chip. But with increasingly powerful AIs and robots, this procedure could become very easy, and perhaps cheaper than an iphone. The government might even subsidise their implantation so they can use them to surveil our thoughts.

    Surveillance and concerns about hacking are two of my concerns about microchipped brains. Have you any other concerns about them?

    Graham.

    1. Hey Graham! I totally agree, surveillance and hacking are HUGE concerns. There are many reasons I don’t support BCIs at this time, including privacy, remote manipulation, consent, freedom and autonomy, and so many more implications that come with rewiring our brains. This article focuses more on the notion of BCIs as a way to prevent the singularity, which is a thought I’ve heard in a few events lately. Would you like me to write another about the ethical concerns of BCIs?

  3. Good to hear this kinda things and about your opinion, yha he is an entrepreneur and the brain-computer interfaces will not be free. Because there is no something that we get from nothing, and you may say that this is sake of all of us, Yha it is but he can minimum the price as depend on peoples wealth, right now this all are his idea and no one knows what will be the result until the show day, also one thing that yha he is a masterminded and entrepreneur but when it comes to our future and life we all have to support each other and share our idea, I not telling is coz I’m an can of him but by knowing the reality 😊😊☺☺✌✌✌

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