Saturday, February 18, 2017

Elon Musk Thinks Humans Must Merge with Machines


libertyblitzkrieg |  To start, let’s examine some recent comments made by Elon Musk at the World Government Summit in the UAE.

ArsTechnica reports:
Humans must become cyborgs and develop a direct high-bandwidth connection with machines or risk irrelevance and obsolescence, says Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk.
Musk’s latest cheery thoughts were imparted at the World Government Summit in the UAE. “Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence,” Musk said, according to CNBC.
The main thrust of Musk’s argument seems to hinge on the limited bandwidth and processing power of a single human being. Computers can ingest, transfer, and process gigabytes of data per second, every second, forever. Meatbags, however, are severely limited by an input/output rate—talking, typing, listening—that’s best measured in bits per second. Thus, avoid replacement by robot or artificial intelligence, we need to become machines.
By way of example, Musk spoke about self-driving cars, which will very soon start displacing jobs—lots and lots of jobs. “The most near term impact from a technology standpoint is autonomous cars … There are many people whose jobs are to drive. In fact I think it might be the single largest employer of people … We need to figure out new roles for what do those people do, but it will be very disruptive and very quick.”
Autonomous vehicles are perhaps the most visible prominence when it comes to recent developments in AI, but rest assured (or not) that we aren’t even close to AI’s capability ceiling. Current deployments of AI are quite limited in that they can only perform one or two tasks adequately—drive a car, lift a piece of steel, flip a burger—but AI research is slowly bubbling towards artificial general intelligence (AGI), which can ostensibly perform every task that a human is capable of.
Once that happens, it’s fairly safe to assume that AGI will continue to improve until, in the words of Elon Musk, it is “smarter than the smartest human on earth.”
As for how humans might achieve silicon symbiosis, the jury’s still out. Musk, according to CNBC, proposed a brain-attached high-bandwidth computer link, perhaps via neural lace. Low-speed and low-resolution EEG-based brain-computer interfaces already exist, of course, but I doubt that’s what Musk has in mind. In all likelihood, we will need to massively improve our understanding of the human brain before any such interface can be created.
Musk has been one of the individuals at the forefront of warning about the threats of artificial intelligence (AI) for a very long time, but it appears the thrust of his most recent comments center around concerns that a rapid increase in technology applied to the economy will result in a massive wave of job losses. This seems plausible to me, and I’ve called attention to it in the past. For example, in the 2015 post, Chinese Company Moves to Replace 90% of its Workforce with Robots,