Elon Musk Thinks We’ll Need Brain Implants to Avoid Becoming the “Housepets” of AI

June 9, 2016 | Kelly Tatera

Elon Musk at The Summit 2013
Photo credit: Heisenberg Media/flickr (CC by SA 2.0)

Adding an AI “neural lace” layer to our brains is our only hope.

Elon Musk isn’t alone in thinking that Artificial Intelligence (AI) might end up getting too smart for humans to handle. Musk, along with Stephen Hawking, Steve Wozniak, and thousands of other AI researchers, signed an open letter last July 2015 to encourage the ban of AI weapons.

At last week’s Code Conference, Elon Musk wasn’t shy about his mind-blowing theories and visions for the future — he thinks humans may be characters in an advanced civilization’s video game, and also plans to send people to Mars by 2025.

As if those ideas aren’t shocking enough, he topped it off with the unsettling prediction that humans could one day become the housepets of AI if we don’t do something to maintain our authority as a species. His solution? Neural lace.

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Basically, neural lace is a type of brain implant in the form of a mesh of electronic fibers, and it would grow into the brain and allow neurons to be programmed and enhanced.

“The solution that seems the best one is to have an A.I. layer (on your brain), that can work well and symbiotically with you,” Musk said during the live interview. “Just as your cortex works symbiotically with your limbic system, your third digital layer could work symbiotically with you.”

He tweeted about the idea a few days after the conference:


Any type of surgery involving the brain has risks associated with it, but Musk says brain surgery isn’t the only option for the procedure — humans might be able to connect their brains to the neural lace via the bloodstream.

“Neurons are already heavy users of energy, so they need high blood flow,” Musk said during the interview. “So you automatically through your veins and arteries have a road network to your neurons.”

He did add, however, that the injection may have to be through the jugular, which doesn’t sound all too comfortable. But, in theory, it could make its way up to the skull and eliminate the need for brain surgery.

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The idea may sound ridiculously far-fetched or sci-fi, but just last year, a group of nanotechnologists and engineers from Harvard University published a paper in Nature Nanotechnology outlining a procedure where they injected neural lace via a syringe into mice.

One of the researchers, Charles Lieber, describes the circuit as a “hundred thousands times more flexible than other implantable electronics,” according to the Smithsonian. The rodents survived the procedure, and the researchers were able to use the implants to monitor brain activity.

In the interview, Musk says he’s currently not aware of any researchers who are seriously working at creating neural lace implants that would be suitable for humans, so the idea won’t be a reality anytime soon.

But Musk says he doesn’t like the idea of being an AI’s house cat — probably a sentiment most of us can relate to — and neural lace is something to keep in mind for the future.

You can watch Elon Musk describe the idea in further detail in the clip below.


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