Neuralink - A future that is difficult to imagine. You will be part of it

Free (very brief) retelling of Tim Urban's article “ Neuralink and the Brain's Magical Future

Neurolink is the most ambitious and important project of Ilona Mask. Its main goal is to create an effective Brain-Computer interface.


To fully understand the significance of this enterprise, I recommend to familiarize yourself with the translation of the article by Tim Urban on artificial intelligence - the Revolution of Artificial Intelligence - the path to Super-intelligence .

In short, the essence is as follows. Creating an artificial super-intelligence (that is, a machine that will replay a person in absolutely all respects, ranging from arithmetic tasks to multivariate figurative models), potentially represents a threat to humanity. An analysis of the interaction model of a highly developed civilization (highly developed intelligence) with a less developed one demonstrates that such an interaction almost always ends in a pernicious manner for a less developed one. All the same, how a person encounters a fly: coexistence is possible, but most likely, everything will end with a newspaper slap ...

According to most experts, the creation of a machine that eventually turns out to be smarter than a person in all respects is a matter of time. It is especially worth noting that superiority can be so overwhelming and will be implemented so quickly that we will not even be able to recognize it. This argument is the main one in the arsenal of scientists, engineers and thinkers who express their concerns about the continuation of developments in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) - we risk growing something we cannot control.

Ilon Mask is one of the most famous proponents of careful attitude to AI. However, realizing that the call for humanity to stop development in the field of AI is not enough, he decided to take an active part in the AI ​​revolution, if possible, directing the development line in a balanced way. Together with Sam Altman (President of Y Combinator ), they founded Open AI, a company whose goal was to provide an opportunity to combine disparate efforts in working on AI and allow the widest possible number of developers to gain access to AI technologies.

The motivation behind such an unobvious step (based on an understanding of the potential danger of AI) is such that since one of the immediate threats of AI may be the concentration of tremendous power in the hands of the group of people who can be the first to bring the technology to mind and get a sort of "magic wand" giving unlimited power over all others. Democratization of AI allows everyone to have access to the most advanced AI technologies. Thus, even if the “bad guys” get an AI, it will be the same with the “good guys”; Well, good, as usual, triumph over evil.

Despite the apparent naivety of judgment, it is subject to a clear logic - if the danger cannot be prevented, the optimal strategy becomes an enterprise of actions to increase the chances of a positive course of development of the process.

So, eliminating the first danger - the possibility of concentration of AI power in the hands of the "bad guys", we turn to the second - how to make it so that the AI, as something independent, does not prevail over humanity. Not to give a situation when the car suddenly realizes “I exist” and suddenly turns into the very “bad guy”.

Ilon sees the solution to the problem through the possibility of people themselves becoming part of the AI. Turn on the AI-super capabilities at will and use them for their own purposes easily and naturally.

It looks like a description of Cyborg, machine-human hybrids. And at first glance it seems an absolute fantasy. However, if you look at our world carefully, you can be sure that we have long integrated technologies so much in our life that they have become an integral part of it. We use the phone to google any information or calculate a complex mathematical operation, and it all happens easily and naturally. By and large, the only limitation of our interaction with a computer is the channel width - the speed of information exchange between a person and a computer.

Standing on the ocean, I can call my wife and tell you how beautiful it is around. Or even send a photo. And even better - to make a video - it will give a much more complete impression.
But since the sensations of our bodies are reduced to electrical impulses in the brain, with a sufficient width of the channel, we can transmit not only the picture and sound, but also smells, the feeling of wind on the skin and the cold ocean water tickling our feet. And my wife will get the same full impression of what she saw, like me.

It is the increase in channel width that is one of the key tasks of the group of the coolest experts that Mask managed to assemble to work on the Neurolink project.

The concept is not new, successful experiences with technologies that allow you to control a computer mouse with the power of thought ( neurocomputer interface ) were conducted at the turn of the two thousandth. The nuance is that this is all work with a very low resolution. Typically, such studies are carried out with paralyzed patients who are attached to the head with a grid of electrodes that read approximately brain activity. There are hundreds of billions of neurons in the cerebral cortex, and it is clear that the grid of electrodes that read electrical impulses through the skull at 30-40 points gives a very rough picture. Ideally, we would like to read the readings of all one hundred billion neurons in order to understand exactly what is happening, but in reality the read resolution is much more superficial. One of the main areas of work of the Neurolink group is the creation of methods that would allow to bring the resolution of reading information to a completely new level.

The complexity of the brain - not just a huge number of neurons that interact with each other on complex algorithms, the nuance is that the human brain has a dynamic structure. The same function, for example - to stretch your right hand upwards, is not simply realized by a different set of electrical commands in the brain of different people; over time, the same person can “encode” the same action in different ways.

Textbook examples of the extraordinary plasticity of the human brain describe situations in which one of the hemispheres was completely removed from children and the remaining part assumed all the functions of the remote part.

In the original article, most of the material is devoted to the description of the work of the brain and various methods of reading information - very informative and detailed.

So, the human brain is considered by most scientists to be the most complex known object of science.

A simplified model of the American neurophysiologist Paul McLean - the structure of the human brain - describes the human brain consisting of three functional parts: The central part, or brainstem, is the so-called ancient brain, the reptile brain . It is surrounded by the "middle brain", the old brain or the limbic system; it is also called the brain of mammals . And, finally, on top of the brain "rational man" , more precisely, the highest primates, because it is present not only in humans, but also, for example, in chimpanzees. This is the neocortex, or cerebral cortex.


1. The ancient brain, the reptile's brain is responsible for performing the simplest basic functions , for the daily, every second functioning of the body: breathing, sleep, blood circulation, muscle contraction in response to external stimulation. All these functions are preserved even when the mind is turned off, for example in a dream or during anesthesia. This part of the brain is called the reptile's brain; reptiles are the simplest living creatures that have a similar anatomical structure.

2. The midbrain, the limbic system surrounding the ancient brain, is found in all mammals. She participates in the regulation of the functions of internal organs, smell, instinctive behavior, memory, sleep, wakefulness, but first of all the limbic system is responsible for emotions (therefore this part of the brain is often called the emotional brain). We cannot control the processes occurring in the limbic system (with the exception of the most enlightened comrades), but the relationship between consciousness and emotions exists all the time.

3. The neocortex, the cortex of the cerebral hemispheres , is responsible for the higher nervous activity. It is this part of the brain that is most strongly developed in Homo sapience and determines our consciousness. Here rational decisions are made, planning is carried out, results and observations are assimilated, logical problems are solved. It can be said that personality is formed in this part of the brain.

So, we have identified three conditional levels of the brain: the brain of the frog, the brain of the monkey and the brain of the rational thinker. For the following story, we omit the frog part, since it is completely self-sufficient and, for the most part, remains behind the scenes.

The “magic hat” through which the Brain-Computer interface will be implemented will become a new level of the brain, which Ilon Musk calls the Digital Level of Consciousness. In the same degree it is easy, as today we are addressing both levels of our brain, juggling with emotions and rational judgments and not dividing them among themselves, like things from different worlds, after a while we will be able to incorporate into our everyday life a new level of consciousness - the Digital Level Consciousness.

As if we have a built-in calculator in our head. But instead of pressing the buttons, you can just mentally take the root of a 5-digit number. And it will happen almost instantly - no need to press the buttons, and peer into the display to read the result.

And if this is not a calculator, but a powerful computer with Internet access? You will instantly be able to access all the knowledge on the net and amazing computing power. Moreover, via the Internet, you can contact any interlocutor in any part of the world and “think together” about something very important, having all the available information resources in the arsenal.

Our interaction with information will also change.

Let's start with a simple one: “I want to know the fact - I make a request to the network - I receive text with an answer on the retina”.

Further more interesting: "I want to know the fact - I make a request to the network - the next second I already KNOW the answer."

Harder: "I want to know the fact - And at that very moment I already know him." It doesn't matter to me whether this information was found on the web or in my brain. I perceive the information spaces of my brain and the network as one.

And finally: "I do not just have all the information, but DEEPLY UNDERSTAND everything I want." It’s like the difference between giving the book “War and Peace” for reading as compared with the opportunity to hold deep discussions with the internal motives of the characters.

Ramez Naam , one of the key experts in the Neurolink team, believes that all of these stages of interaction are possible over time, although the latter part may take a very long time, if at all.

Now think about what is a person?

It looks like it is something more than what you see in the mirror. Let's start with the physical level: a person can change his appearance, but this does not make him a different person. In the bright future, when we will be able to replace damaged organs or limbs with new ones grown from a test tube, we will remain ourselves, even with a new arm. Even with a new body entirely, but keeping our brain, we retain our identity.

The main thing that makes a person a person is his life experience, habits, desires, memories ... - information. And the information in our digital age is just a collection of electrical impulses.

So what will happen to a person if you manage to completely transfer information from one brain to another? We can say that we will transfer his personality to a new physical appearance.

Taking the next logical step, it is easy to come to the conclusion that the person’s identity, in the form of information, can be saved as a file and downloaded to a computer. And then - unload in another body.

Although why bother with it, you can just meet all of us in the new digital space that we will create for ourselves.

In this digital world, we will have access to unlimited knowledge, we will have access to the most exotic sensations and experiences. And all this - without the annoying need to take out the garbage a couple of times a week. Without hunger, disease, pain. It will be a perfect world. Why should we be limited to physical bodies, if new opportunities allow us to be omnipotent, invulnerable. It is enough just to immerse the body in a nutrient saline solution, connect to the network through a powerful digital cable and go on a wonderful journey ... Matrix.

Frankly, the last in the article by Tim Urban is not. This is me abusing the format of free retelling. Just a little extended logical line.

According to various estimates, the implementation of an effective “Brain-Computer” interface will be possible in 25-50 years.

Do not underestimate the significance of future changes. The rate of progress increases exponentially every year. According to Ray Kurzweil's theory, the amount of innovation, equivalent to that created for the entire twentieth century, will be realized in the 21st century by 2020. And the next “norm of secular progress” - for the next 7-10 years.

We live in amazing time. Most of us will see how unimaginably our world will change.


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