Briefly on the future of AI and human brain

Part I: Introduction

A still from the 1995 animated film Ghost in the Shell.

Brain hacking is not new in the science fiction world of comics, anime, literature and movies. However, it is rather new in Silicon Valley.

There is an increasing will to invest in understating and tackling universal existential problems. The interest in startups and researches developing exponential technologies to enhance human life is growing in many areas: from AI that will treat diseases or will make energy usage more efficient, to space mining, life extension on Mars or synthetic biology reversing aging. But what about our brain?

Human intelligence is developing artificial intelligence

The search for answers to complicated questions posed first by philosophers, gave birth to science and engineering that created practical application for us to use. Schrodinger asked himself “What is life?” and tried to explain it in plain text from a cell perspective. Einstein’s dream was to make sense of everything and unify the entire universe in one single theory. Our intelligence made us philosophers, scientists and engineers. “Science is not just a bunch of facts, but it’s a process for deriving facts and it’s a process to tell sense from nonsense. “ Lawrence Krauss explains. The 21st century is the century of technological enhancement of our civilization, mind and consciousness. The question some have started to ask is, while we change the world using science and technology, how can we change ourselves so to keep up? Do we need to upgrade our brain?

It was Kant who voiced the idea that “the mind interprets the world”. These words inspired Demis Hassabis to start Deepmind, an AI company aiming to solve intelligence and then to solve everything else. Deepmind was acquired by Google in 2015. It continuous to make tremendous progress in developing general-purpose algorithms that can be applied in health, energy and any other field. “To truly find the theory of everything, we need first to solve intelligence.” Demis believes. This is only one effort out of increasing number of initiatives in researching and building AI.

Thus, human intelligence is developing artificial intelligence, an area that raises many concerns among people like Stephen Hawkins, Bill Gates and Elon Musk. Many say that artificial intelligence will leave people unemployed, potentially outsmart us and destroy humanity. But, what if we connect our brains to machine intelligence?

AI and HI or brain races

In the beginning of fall 2016, Bryan Johnson, invested $100 million of his own money to found Kernel, a neuroscience startup that will put computer chips inside human brain. (He made his millions by selling his payments company, Braintree, to PayPal.)

At the end of April 2017, Elon Musk announced the creation of Neuralink to “develop ultra high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect humans and computers.”

Thus, Kernel and Neuralink, became two of the early commercial leaders in the emerging field of neuroscience, that we could call neurocomputation (keeping this a working name for merging the human brain with computers). Both aim to augment the human brain, enhance human intelligence and create a brain-computer interface. First does this to discover the unknown, to unleash the imagination limited by our cognitive abilities and evolve intelligence. The second is mainly driven by (according to Elon himself) the necessity to mitigate the existential risks caused by potential development of general AI. To achieve these ambitious goals, however, they are both initially focusing on developing new kinds of neuroprosphetics to treat severe brain injuries and conditions such as Alzheimer.

From “What is life?” to “What will it mean to live?”

We have built mega-cities, explored the depth of the oceans, of Earth and we went out in space. Yet we understand very little about the human brain. We do not know what consciousness is. There are 125,000 Parkinson’s patients worldwide having implanted stimulators in their brains, so to control their motor movements. It works, however, neuroscientists cannot explain yet how or why.

As Kernel’s mission states, “Exploring our universe is extending the life of our Earth, understanding our genetic code is extending the life of our body and now we are unlocking our own code to extend the life of our mind. So, what would it mean to live?” The next is to understand and upgrade our own brain.

Of course, hacking the brain is a long-term goal; however, it might be the greatest enhancement of our human kind. We are already on the path to merge with machines. Whether this is a prosthetic or a chip to control Parkinson, the potential AI together with HI inspires some and will inspire many more. Sky is not the limit. Imagination is the limit. What world will we see? What world will we want to build? What will it mean to be alive, when our upgraded brain will be able to think in one second as in 35000 years?