Following the accidental explosion at SpaceX on Sept. 1, company founder Elon Musk has been relatively quiet. But an interview posted this week gives us more insight into his thoughts on one of his favorite topics: artificial intelligence.
Speaking with Y Combinator president Sam Altman, Musk addressed a number of topics while seated in front of the assembly line of his other forward-looking company, Tesla.
And while he’s become known in recent years for being outspoken on the dangers of AI and, to some, painting science fiction-level scenarios that may not be viable for some time, in this talk he offers a different scenario regarding the Singularity.
“If we can effectively merge with AI by improving the neural link … then effectively you become an AI-human symbiote”
“I think if we can effectively merge with AI by improving the neural link between your cortex and your digital extension of yourself … then effectively you become an AI-human symbiote,” said Musk. “And if that then is widespread, and anyone who wants it can have it, then we solve the control problem as well. We don’t have to worry about some evil dictator AI because we are the AI collectively. That seems like the best outcome I can think of.”
This notion of creating human-AI hybrids, which Musk has mentioned before as a possible “neural lace,” extends to his thoughts on new startups. When asked what he would focus on now if he were a 22-year-old entrepreneur, Musk mentions AI and genetics, but more specifically focuses on the aforementioned notion of linking our brains with computers.
“I think having a high-bandwidth interface to the brain… we’re currently bandwidth-limited,” says Musk. “We have a digital tertiary self in the form of our email capabilities, our computers, phones, applications. We’re practically superhuman. But we’re extremely bandwidth-constrained in that interface between the cortex and that tertiary digital form of yourself. And helping solve that bandwidth constraint would be, I think, very important in the future as well.”
However, one comment may be of particular note to budding innovators currently in university programs. It appears that Musk disagrees with the notion that most of the next generation of tech and science geniuses will come from academia. When asked if he thinks it’s useful to get a Ph.D. degree, Musk says, “Mostly not … Some yes, but mostly not.”
Musk doesn’t talk much about the dangers and risks associated with SpaceX, but in light of the company’s recent accident, one unrelated comment from Musk regarding “fear” tells us all we need to know about how far SpaceX will continue to push the boundaries of space travel.
“I actually think I feel fear quite strongly,” says Musk, answering a question about his apparent fearlessness in the face of challenges while innovating. “It’s not as though I just have the absence of fear. I feel it quite strongly. There are just times when something is important enough that you believe in it enough that you do it in spite of fear.”