Elon Musk's plan to stop AI turning humans into pets

The Tesla head honcho wants to add a digital layer to our brains...

With smartphones now permanently "attached" to most people's hips or hands, what's the big deal about having a layer of AI permanently attached to our brains?

That's the thinking of tech innovator and Tesla boss Elon Musk, as he outlined his plans for the "neural lace" that just might save us from being enslaved by the very robots built to serve us.

Musk was speaking at Code Conference 2016 in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, yesterday and offered his oft-out there, always-futurist thoughts on myriad topics.

Along with claiming that Google won't compete with Tesla in the self-driving car industry (but Apple might), that his SpaceX company would be ready to put a man on Mars by 2024, and figuring that we're merely characters in an advanced civilisation's video game, he also issued a warning... and gave his solution.

The problem with AI getting too intelligent

Musk is concerned that, considering the rate at which the power of AI is increasing, once it becomes more intelligent than humans, it could pose a threat.

The main risk he sees is that the robots would start treating us the way we treat our pets.

Musk said:

"If you assume any rate of advancement in AI, we'll be left behind by a lot...

"I don’t love the idea of being a house cat, but what’s the solution? I think one of the solutions that seems maybe the best is to add an AI layer.

"Something I think is going to be quite important - I don’t know of a company that’s working on it seriously - is a neural lace".

The "lace" could work "well and symbiotically" with the rest of the human body, he argues, with electronic circuits and neural circuits intertwining to create what would essentially be a cyborg.

Are we human?

Of course, Musk thinks we're already there.

He opined:

"We’re already a cyborg. You have a digital version of yourself, a partial version of yourself online in the form of your emails, your social media, and all the things that you do.

"You have more power than the president of the United States had 20 years ago. You can answer any question, you can video conference with anyone, anywhere. You can send messages to millions of people instantly. Just do incredible things".

Or are we in a video game?

"There's a one in billions chance that this is base reality," Musk continued. "Forty years ago, you had Pong, like, two rectangles and a dot. That was what games were.

"Now, 40 years later, we have photorealistic, 3D simulations with millions of people playing simultaneously, and it's getting better every year...

"If you assume any rate of improvement at all, then the games will become indistinguishable from reality.

"I've had so many simulation discussions it's crazy. In fact, it got to the point where basically every conversation was the AI/simulation conversation, and my brother and I finally agreed that we would ban such conversations if we were ever in a hot tub.

"If civilization stops advancing, then that may be due to some calamitous event that erased the civilization. So maybe we should be hopeful that this is a simulation".

So when can we get to the next level (that is, Mars)?

SpaceX will start sending Mars cargo deliveries as early as 2018. Musk also wants to send his Dragon V2 spacecraft to the Red Planet that same year. It can seat seven, but no humans will go because there's no way back... yet.

"If things go according to plan, [we] should be able to launch people by 2024 with arrival in 2025".

Back on Earth... Google disses

Brushing off the threat of Google, Musk thinks Tesla Motors has the driverless car market cornered, unless a Cupertino company steps up the competition.

Musk said:

"Googles done a great job of showing the potential of autonomous transport, but they're not a car company.

"Yeah [Apple]. That'll be more direct".