Thursday, April 06, 2017

Neural lace

Elon Musk tweaks the technosphere again (from The Economist):
"Ever since ENIAC, the first computer that could be operated by a single person, began flashing its ring counters in 1946, human beings and calculating machines have been on a steady march towards tighter integration. Computers entered homes in the 1980s, then migrated onto laps, into pockets and around wrists. In the laboratory, computation has found its way onto molars and into eyeballs. The logical conclusion of all this is that computers will, one day, enter the brain.

"This, at least, is the bet behind a company called Neuralink, just started by Elon Musk, a serial technological entrepreneur. Information about Neuralink is sparse, but trademark filings state that it will make invasive devices for treating or diagnosing neurological ailments. Mr Musk clearly has bigger plans, though. He has often tweeted cryptic messages referring to “neural lace”, a science-fictional concept invented by Iain M. Banks, a novelist, that is, in essence, a machine interface woven into the brain. ..."
Neural lace was Iain M. Banks's technology as used by citizens in "the Culture" to 'telepathically' converse with Culture Minds, the AIs which actually ran their civilisation. In one novel, a Mind mentions matter-of-factly that no more exquisite torture device has ever been conceived of.

Anatoly Karlin, quoting Nick Bostrom, is profoundly skeptical:
"We do not need to plug a fiber optic cable into our brains in order to access the Internet. Not only can the human retina transmit data at an impressive rate of nearly 10 million bits per second, but it comes pre-packaged with a massive amount of dedicated wetware, the visual cortex, that is highly adapted to extracting meaning from this information torrent and to interfacing with other brain areas for further processing.

"Even if there were an easy way of pumping more information into our brains, the extra data inflow would do little to increase the rate at which we think and learn unless all the neural machinery necessary for making sense of the data were similarly upgraded. Since this includes almost all of the brain, what would really be needed is a “whole brain prosthesis–—which is just another way of saying artificial general intelligence.

"Yet if one had a human-level AI, one could dispense with neurosurgery: a computer might as well have a metal casing as one of bone."
This reminds me of all the ways experts tell you that something can't be done.

My vote goes with James P. Hogan, who in his excellent and seminal SF novel, "The Genesis Machine", described a brain-computer symbiosis delivering enhanced imagination/visualisation.

Amazon link

A system of equations would be projected onto an interior whiteboard in your mind. The computer would generate a VR-type solution space which you could navigate freely while discussing subtleties and points of interest with the accompanying AI system. It was, if you like, virtual reality in the head - the abstract rendered concrete.

And that is definitely going to happen.

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