It's an old chestnut of computer science speculation. The logic goes something like this: If it's possible to create consciousness out of a computer, someone, either human or alien, will have done it. If they've done it, they've probably done it a number of times (since after all computers can run infinitely many programs). If that's true, then the number of consciousnesses that are simulated is probably much higher — even orders of magnitude higher — than the number of consciousnesses that aren't. Therefore, the odds that any given consciousness — you, me, Elon Musk — is simulated are much higher than the odds that it's not.
It's a funny thought experiment. But it's also an interesting peek into the worldview of one of the world's most influential voices on the fast-advancing field of artificial intelligence. You may know Musk for his talent for building rocket ships and electric cars, but he's also formally warned about the dangers of artificial intelligence run amok, and has been a leader of a consortium that is committing a billion dollars to building artificial intelligence without the Skynet parts.
Which is why, if Musk wasn't joking — and there's little indication he was — we should note that this idea is completely nonsensical. It reveals a deep ignorance about the mind, consciousness and, yes, computers, which is strange for someone recognized as a prophet and an expert on the issue.
The problem lies with the first premise that it's possible to generate consciousness out of software. It's an idea that is widely shared in the tech industry. Last week, I was invited to speak about robots and AI at Brain Bar Budapest, a sort of "South By Southwest on the Danube," a tech conference and music festival combination that attracted luminaries from the U.S. and Europe alike. The topic that excited everyone the most, both on and off the stage, was when we'd be able to upload our brains into a computer. This question, like the we-all-live-in-the-Matrix idea, relies on the notion that the mind is essentially a piece of very sophisticated software, something which might have been useful as a metaphor some decades ago — until people forgot it was a metaphor.
The fact is, brains and computers are fundamentally different, in ways that are simply unbridgeable.
The idea of uploading your brain to a computer relies on the idea that consciousness and software are the same. The problem is that while you might compare them metaphorically, they are actually categorically different. And for a very simple reason: A piece of software, technically speaking, is simply a list of zeroes and ones. Your brain contains no zeroes and ones, and your mind is not made up of zeroes and ones.
We may in the future — and in fact already do — build software that can perform many tasks as well as human beings can, but it won't mean that that software will be conscious, or even that it will be "intelligent" in the human sense of the term, because it won't. Even if you could write software that would be an enormously lifelike simulation of a mind, that piece of software would not have self-consciousness the way you or I do.
Famously, when the Lumière brothers gave the first public screening of their invention of the cinema, showing a train arriving at the station, the entire audience fled the theater in terror, thinking they were about to get crushed by a real train. There was no train. A movie or video game character can be enormously lifelike, even so much as to trick us, but it's still not a conscious actor.
In a valuable essay in the online magazine Aeon, the psychologist Robert Epstein points out that the mind and computers simply work in a different way. A mind does not store information in a memory bank, or use algorithms. You can use metaphors to analogize them, sure, but a metaphor is just a metaphor. Epstein's essay is also valuable for its historical survey, that shows that for centuries people trying to understand how the mind works have been analogizing it to the hip technology of the day.
Elon Musk Thinks A.I. Will Take Over, but "Neural Lace" Will Save Humanity
Elon Musk Thinks A.I. Will Take Over, but "Neural Lace" Will Save Humanity
Humanity must "Achieve symbiosis with machines," Musk says.
Elon Musk has been floating some very forward facing, futurist tech ideas lately such as how we’ll make government on Mars, why we’re all living in asimulation like The Matrix, and how he plans to launch a SpaceX rocket at the unprecedented rate of once every two weeks. But his thoughts on something called “neural lace” have to be the most far out.
“Creating a neural lace is the thing that really matters for humanity to achieve symbiosis with machines,” Musk tweeted late Friday night, which followed statements made earlier in the week on the topic at Recode’s Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.
So what is Musk saying when he talks about a neural lace? In the most basic sense, it’s a mesh of electronic fibers that you would place on your head to improve human performance. Think of it like a kitchen cap for your brain, but instead of protecting food from stray hairs, it improves your cognitive abilities.
But, perhaps more interesting than explaining what neural lace actually does, is comprehending why Musk thinks it’s so vital.
It all ties back to his theories about A.I. and how he believes one day machines will become smarter than humans. At a benign level, he says, machines could come to think of humans as house pets, or simply come to destroy all of humanity, as numerous movies have depicted.
Actor Matt Damon, during his commencement speech at MIT this week, suggested he’s concerned about similar problems with A.I. Musk doesn’t seem too thrilled with being thought of as a house cat, so he has a way to beat A.I.
“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 a live interview at Code Conference. “Just as your cortex works symbiotically with your limbic system, your third digital layer could work symbiotically with you.”
By using neural lace, Musk hopes human cognitive abilities can be improved to best the advancement of artificial intelligence or at least match it.
Walt Mossberg, co-producer of the conference, suggested that implementing neural lace seemed like a high risk procedure or surgery. But Musk pushed back, claiming that, while surgery is certainly an option, humans may be able to connect 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 added that it may have to be injected into the jugular, which doesn’t sound all that comforting, but at least it’s not chopping open your skull, he said.
There’s already been some research and heavy investment into this idea. A year ago a group of chemists and engineers published a paper in Nature Nanotechnology that showed they could inject neural lace via a syringe into mice. The rodents survived the procedure and researchers used the implants to monitor brain activity.
This future is a long way away. After all, Siri still isn’t all that good at understanding what we’re asking. But Musk has always been one to prepare for the future.Work of: https://www.inverse.com/article/16559-elon-musk-thinks-a-i-will-take-over-but-neural-lace-will-save-humanity