Humanity vs AI: Our Secret Weapon
The internet is going bananas over Elon Musk again, and for good reason. In a recent interview at Code Conference 2016, he basically surmised that the only way for humanity to deal with and prevent a complete takeover by hostile AI is to implement what is known as a Neural Lace. While this concept has been in the thoughts of many futurists and fans of the Culture Series, is still leaves most of us wondering what the heck he’s talking about. Well, lend me a few minutes of your time and I can explain.
The I/O Problem
First of all, the human brain is a remarkable thing. But you know that, because we all have one. We’re smart tool builders that can build our way to success, as we have most certainly done so. But, there is a large problem that we face: The Human Mind has really shitty input and output.
Well, it has okay input and horrible output. Think about it. You can get information in so many different ways: eyes,ears,touch,smell,taste. But the way we output that information, specifically how we output it to computers has been horribly inefficient. (I should know, I’m using it right now..) Typing. We’ve been jabbing our chubby little fingers into hard plastic keys for years and years, taking literal hours to convey instructions and commands to any sort of technology. It seems natural, because we’ve grown very accustomed to it in the past century.
Do you know how long it took me to type that last sentence? 20.83 seconds. Do you know long it took me to think it up? Me neither, but it was damned fast.
Now think about how computer inputs and outputs work. They’re ridiculously fast. How long does it take for an email to get sent to your boss? Like a second, give or take?
In terms of input, output channels as well as information speeds, computer networks have us beat. No, no, you shouldn’t be ashamed of your puny human brain. It really is amazing, and it had other priorities when evolving, like trying to catch that insanely fast gazelle for lunch.
So, how to we solve this input/output problem? Well, enter the neural lace.
So what is a neural lace? Well, its essentially a mess of component electronics that would placed across the big, beautiful cortex of yours, and connect you with computers, the internet, whatever. I’m generalizing here, but its essentially a wireless receiver/transmitter for your brain. No longer would you have to type for a hours conveying instructions. The moment you want to send a thought or instruction to your trusty old comp, its already done. When you think about it, this is huge.
Brain-Computer Interfaces, which is a broader term for devices like the Neural Lace, are the future. They literally increase human ability, in theory. No longer are you bound by the computational power of your brain, because you can instantly tap into the power of a billion or so computers to solve that calculus problem. You would never forget a memory, never forget a shopping list, or a birthday. And it would completely revolutionize healthcare, especially diagnostics and neurological treatment.
A Neural Lace would be potentially be inserted into you by some relatively non invasive means, like your bloodstream. It’s component parts would float on up all the way to your gray and white matter, and start communicating with your neurons. And there you have it: instant human computer interaction.
I could really get into the science of the matter, if you all would like, in a whole other article. But the kicker is that this crazy theoretical neural lace has already been made. Check this out.
So, how does this help us beat SkyNet?
Okay, so we’ve talked about how there’s this input/output problem in the brain, and we’ve proposed neural nets to solve that problem. But how is this the answer to AI?
Well, and again I am generalizing and conjecturing about things that don’t exist, think about it this way: If you erase the border between an AI and yourself, such that the AI is essentially constantly a part of you and you of it, why would the AI kill you?
Now before I start a whole new branch of philosophy, lets take a step back and just observe what we’re saying here. So, you’ve stuck this neural lace on your brain and connected to all the computing power in the world. Unfortunately you built SkyNet, and that sucker is also connected to all the computers in the world. Wait. Both you and this AI are using the same computers and the same connection. There’s really no differentiating factors making the AI think you’re not just another part of it and it of you. Even if for some ridiculously impossible reason, it could see you that way, you have access to the same powers of processing it does. It isn’t smarter than you.
So, that is how I think Mr. Musk is thinking. And it makes sense, theoretically. But even if we remove AI from the discussion, the Neural Lace is huge. It has insane potential in improving the human race, as well as insane controversy behind it. I mean, would we still have privacy? Identity? Would we even be human?
I’ll hit those topics in another discussion that I’ll post on here as soon as final exams are done. Man I wish I had a Neural Lace right now. Maybe I should set about making one…
If you guys and gals enjoyed my post, let me know in the comments or tweet me at Harsh Sikka! I’m looking forward to posting more pieces like this exploring human progress, potential, and the like.
For a more formal collection of academic writing, check out the academic journal I just started, Progress.