By Kevin Loria

Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Brain computer interfaces might prevent superintelligent AI from ending the world.

Elon Musk is a busy guy.

He’s developing electric vehicles, self-driving cars, tunnel-boring infrastructure technology, and re-usable rockets (with the goal of getting humans to Mars).

Given Musk’s ambitiousness, it’s not totally surprising that he is also launching a company that will look into ways to link human brains to computers. Musk reportedly plans to spend 3-5% of his work time on Neuralink, which will develop technology to integrate brains and computers as a way to fix medical problems and eventually supercharge human cognition.

Existing brain-computer interfaces, which are relatively simple compared to Musks’s goals, can connect to a few hundred brain cells at a time. Those are already helping the deaf hear, the blind see, and the paralyzed move robotic arms. Once researcher are able to understanding and connect interfaces to the 100 billion neurons in the brain, these linkages could essentially give people superpowers.

That potential has clearly captured Musk’s interest, but this new project also seems to stem from his concerns about super-intelligent artificial intelligence (AI).

Tim Urban of Wait But Why has a relationship with Musk that gives him unique access to insight into the tech mogul. Urban suggests Musk is betting on the possibility that melding human and artificial intelligence will make us more likely to survive the emergence of super-intelligent (and super-powerful) AI.

Urban wrote an excellent 38,000 word post about Neuralink and AI’s existential threat to humanity, but he gave a short version of this idea to author Virginia Heffernan in a conversation hosted by Heleo:

Elon is very nervous about AI, and rightly so. Intelligence gives humans this God-like power over all animals just because we’re more intelligent. We’re building something more intelligent than we are, that’s a concern. He believes that the solution to reduce existential risk is to be able to high bandwidth interface with AI. He thinks that if we can think with AI, it allows AI to function as a third layer in our brain, where we could have AI that’s built for us. So we have human intelligence and then we have artificial intelligence, and they’re both us and so we become AI in a way.

That sounds kind of creepy but it makes sense if all of us are AI, there’s not really anyone that can get control over all the AI in the world, monopolize it, and maybe do bad things with it because they are contending with a millions and billions of