Elon Musk: To avoid becoming like monkeys, humans must merge with machines

Elon Musk: To avoid becoming like monkeys, humans must merge with machines
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Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk at a summit in Los Angeles earlier this month. (Reuters/Kyle Grillot)

In recent years, Elon Musk has become one of the most vocal critics of artificial intelligence, issuing numerous warnings about the threat that powerful machines pose to the future of mankind.

Now the 47-year-old billionaire inventor and Tesla chief executive has unveiled a potential way for the meager human brain to compete with a superior force that Musk has compared to “an immortal dictator” and “the devil.”

During an interview with Axios co-founders Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen that aired Sunday, Musk said humans must merge with artificial intelligence, creating a “symbiosis” that leads to “a democratization of intelligence.”

“Essentially, how do we ensure that the future constitutes the sum of the will of humanity?” Musk said. “And so, if we have billions of people with the high-bandwidth link to the AI extension of themselves, it would actually make everyone hyper-smart.”

[Elon Musk’s nightmarish warning: AI could become ‘an immortal dictator from which we would never escape’]

What would an AI-infused human look like? The ever optimistic Musk told Axios that upgrading human intelligence would start with planting a chip in someone’s head with “a bunch of tiny wires” with the goal of creating a hard drive for peoples' brains.

Or as Musk phrased it: “Electron to neuron interface at a micro level.”

By giving the masses access to super intelligence, information would not be monopolized by corporations and governments, Musk said. Fusing people with super intelligence, he said, could be used to treat spinal cord injuries and improve the human memory, helping people avoid dementia.

As the algorithms and the hardware improve, Musk warned, “digital intelligence will exceed biological intelligence by a substantial margin. It’s obvious.”

The unfortunate result of the growing power of digital intelligence could lead to humanity being hoarded into small, zoo-like swaths of the globe, an existence that would more closely resemble what has happened to monkeys, which have been stripped of their natural habitat by vastly more intelligent primates, he said.

Musk said that humanity is lagging behind, behaving like “like children in a playground” who aren’t paying attention to the looming threats around us. “We worry more about . . . what name somebody called someone else . . . than whether AI will destroy humanity,” he said. “That’s insane.”

Musk has said that autonomous machines are more dangerous to the world than North Korea and could unleash “weapons of terror.” He has compared the adoption of AI to “summoning the devil.” The SpaceX founder also believes artificial intelligence could help trigger the next world war and has argued that super-intelligent machines could come to dominate the world. In the documentary “Do you Trust This Computer,” which debuted in April, Musk warned that super computers could become “an immortal dictator from which we would never escape.”

Last summer, Musk joined several thousands researchers and technology experts, including Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn, artificial intelligence researcher Stuart Russell, as well as the three founders of Google DeepMind — the company’s premier machine-learning research group —— in pledging not to participate in or support the development and use of lethal autonomous weapons.

The pledge says artificial intelligence is expected to play an increasing role in military systems and calls upon governments and politicians to introduce laws regulating such weapons “to create a future with strong international norms.”

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