OH NO ELON NO


Given his recent demonstrations of incompetence, would you allow Elon Musk to perform brain surgery on you? Not that he, personally, would wield the knife (probably…although he also has had a machine built to do the surgery, and he might want to push buttons), but one of the companies he owns and mismanages would be in charge. That’s what he wants to do with Neuralink.

It’s been six years since Tesla, SpaceX (and now Twitter) CEO Elon Musk co-founded brain-control interfaces (BCI) startup, Neuralink. It’s been three years since the company first demonstrated its “sewing machine-like” implantation robot, two years since the company stuck its technology into the heads of pigs — and just over 19 months since they did the same to primates, an effort that allegedly killed 15 out of 23 test subjects. After a month-long delay in October, Neuralink held its third “show and tell” event on Wednesday where CEO Elon Musk announced, “we think probably in about six months, we should be able to have a Neuralink installed in a human.”

Let’s also mention the self-driving software for his cars, which is going to be killing people soon. Would you want Musk software in your head? Or consider the Boring Company fiasco, which has failed to produce any useful transportation solutions.

And, don’t forget, it’s been about a year since he successfully impregnated a Neuralink executive. That’s the one thing I’d trust Elon Musk to do — fucking someone up.

I skimmed through his 2 3/4 hour tech demo. I was unimpressed. He showed off the pong-playing monkey again, with Elon providing narration to reassure us that all of his monkeys are happy. He had a dummy on an operating table, its head encased in a machine. They had the machine poking needles into an imitation brain. They did nothing to reassure us that long-term implantation was safe. They had no new, concrete, specific results.

One thing I noticed is that all of the engineers who were trotted out were well-spoken and well-rehearsed, kind of the minimum I’d expect…which made Musk’s off-the-cuff, clumsy speaking style more prominent. It was a lot of halting “uhh”s and “umm”s. He’s terrible. A charisma-vacuum. Fortunately for him, he had a paid claque on hand to whoop and holler at his every pronouncement, which just made the whole presentation even more annoying.

That also exposed how bad the content of what he was saying. Here’s a medical device that he claims will help the blind see and the paralyzed walk again (not that that was demonstrated), and what does he think is important? Defeating the long-term risk of AI.

Musk, however, also tends to emphasize non-medical uses, such as using brain implants to even the playing field, if digital artificial intelligence becomes smarter than any human.

“How do we mitigate that risk? At a species level?” Musk asked Wednesday. “Even in a benign scenario, where the AI is very, very benevolent — then how do we go along for the ride?”

This is not a real thing. We are not threatened by AI, and the kinds of clumsy tech Musk is playing with won’t mitigate his imagined existential future danger. He has no grasp of what his hired engineers are doing — he lives in a sci-fi fantasy world in his head.

The worst, though, is his stated purpose for the demo.

Musk noted during the “show and tell” event that the primary goal of the evening was to recruit talent to Neuralink.

“A lot of the time people think that they couldn’t really work at Neuralink because they don’t know anything about biology or how the brain works,” Musk said. “The thing we really want to emphasize here is that you don’t need to because when you break down the skills that are needed to make Neuralink work, it’s actually many of the same skills that are required to make a smartwatch or modern phone work.”

NO. NO NO NO NO NOOOOOOOOOOO. That is all wrong. It’s what a stupid pseudo-engineer would say. The first priority has to be safety, and long-term stability, and building a functional interface with an immensely complex biological organ. These are all medical and biological problems. The engineering…jesus, his major accomplishment has been training a monkey to play Pong. Pong is not difficult. It is not an engineering triumph. The tricky part is the biology. Any ethical review board ought to read that quote and immediately reject his proposal for human trials in 6 months.

He thinks it’s a gadget problem rather than a medical problem.

“In many ways it’s like a Fitbit in your skull, with tiny wires,” Musk said of Neuralink’s device during the 2021 livestream event.

The Fitbit part is relatively trivial, the tiny wires are easy, it’s using them to muck around in a person’s brain that is hard. I don’t think Musk appreciates the difficulty at all.

There are people who are desperate for something to treat the catastrophic medical problems of ALS or spinal cord energy, and that’s Musk’s market. He’s going to gouge them for everything they’re worth and provide dangerous and minimal solutions, all while he’s dreaming of someday uploading his brain to a computer. Don’t fall for it. Don’t let a bumbling narcissistic billionaire get in your skull, especially since his efforts so far have a 65% mortality rate.

Comments

  1. wzrd1 says

    Every one of his “advanced” link crap was already old hat back in the 1970’s, albeit his advances seem to be in bringing post-op infection rates up to the 1920’s.
    Let’s hope his first human (I’m being generous) victim of the butchery is himself.
    Although, a radical lobotomy would likely improve his intelligence.

  2. sqlrob says

    “we think probably in about six months, we should be able to have a Neuralink installed in a human.”

    Sort of like that “Mars in 10 years” Elon, that you said /me checks watch calendar more than 10 years ago?

  3. imback says

    In a typical science fiction scenario, the way that AI will eventually triumph over us is precisely through the manipulation of the electronic devices we had benightedly gotten installed our heads.

  4. archduke52 says

    A dangerous diversion from the Twitter disaster. It’s not just PR, ya dope, it a human brain.

  5. birgerjohansson says

    Is there no US legislation against snake oil salesmen?
    I am pretty sure this would face legal challenges in the EU area, and possibly in Japan.

  6. says

    It would face HUGE regulatory challenges here, if our regulators still had any backbone, and weren’t so easily bowled over by rich-techbro hype.

  7. drickard says

    Or consider the Boring Company fiasco, which has failed to produce any useful transportation solutions.

    Actually, every Boring Company project has done exactly what it was supposed to do: put money in Musk’s pockets while conning gullible cities into killing public transit plans.

  8. says

    “…when you break down the skills that are needed to make Neuralink work, it’s actually many of the same skills that are required to make a smartwatch or modern phone work.”

    That’s true of Neuralink. That is NOT AT ALL TRUE of the interface between Neuralink and an organic brain.

    There are people who are desperate for something to treat the catastrophic medical problems of ALS or spinal cord energy, and that’s Musk’s market.

    There are also extremely naïve, simplistic and uncaring technocrat fanboys, that that’s Musk’s marketing team.

    He’s going to gouge them for everything they’re worth and provide dangerous and minimal solutions, all while he’s dreaming of someday uploading his brain to a computer.

    And here we have the next “Dr.” Oz.

  9. says

    This will make a great loyalty test for his fanboys. It’s one thing to build an impossibly ugly statue of him, quite another to let him put wires in your brain.
    I’m remembering something I saw a few weeks ago on either Netflix or Amazon Prime regarding medical devices, how the FDA routinely approves devices without testing if they are essentially similar to a device already on the market. In some cases devices have been approved this way even if the older device has been pulled from the market due to safety concerns.
    Also, our regulatory agencies are routinely under-funded and over-burdened.
    I’ll see if I can find that documentary today. Unless I get lazy and decide to spend the day watching Archer. All this talk of implants is reminding me of Krieger’s lab. Yup yup yup!

  10. fusilier says

    an effort that allegedly killed 15 out of 23 test subjects.

    Where the hell is PETA when you need them?

    fusilier

    James 2:24

  11. hemidactylus says

    @14- feralboy12
    My favorite Archer was when he had amnesia and was working at a burger joint (hint, hint). Ranks up there with Stan from American Dad finding a portal into the weird 60s show on his TV set and can’t escape. That nightmare scenario seems mild compared to Neuralink.

  12. NitricAcid says

    Not to put too fine a point on it,
    Say I’m the only bot in your bonnet
    Put a little FitBit in your brain…..

  13. says

    In very extensive and exhausting, yet not exhaustive, research of these subjects, we find a direct and likely causative correlation between wealth and malice: the richer you are the more damage you cause to society. Also, we also found a corresponding and direct resultant correlation between wealth and arrogant, selfish sociopathy.

    Let’s see anyone find facts or studies that refute that!

    Melon Musk is just the latest and most egregious manifestation of the ‘you can buy it and own it even if you don’t have the ability to invent it’. As in: Bill the Gate$, Steve Job$, et al.

  14. says

    I would love to have a reasonably priced (< $30,000) EV pickup with >400 mile range. That’s quite possible using current technology. However, as I learn more about how malignant Musk Melon is, I would not buy a Tesla. Sadly, there are many articles showing the two original creator/owners of Tesla who are no longer known or honored for their pioneering work on EV’s. Musk Melon is just the money, ego and loud mouth who bought Tesla.

  15. says

    @23 flange ‘This is your brain.
    This is your brain on Microsoft Excel™ and Microsoft Word.™’
    I agree with you. That’s why we use the free Gnumeric and Abiword on both Linux and Window$. And, you can get the free and portable Libreoffice for Linux and Window$ instead to the horrible Micro$oft office suite.

  16. chrislawson says

    We’ve had neural interfaces for decades. They’re called cochlear implants, and they’ve been around since the late 70s — that’s before smartphone technology for Elon’s info — and they weren’t created by engineering wonks looking to replicate smartphone technology in our heads for poorly-defined profit motives, they were created by many teams of neurosurgeons, neurologists, and neuroscientists trying to manage one very specific medical issue who (1) took many years of research to understand one small part of the brain and (2) took many years doing careful trials with ethics approval. Elon’s techbro stampede model of development is already known to be unsafe with his “autopilot” driving rubbish, and now he wants to tinker with people’s brains?

    Let me guess: the first volunteers will be extremely vulnerable people such as those with spinal injuries, and they will get no ethical protection from Elon’s ambitions.

  17. gijoel says

    I never thought I’d find someone as insane and incompetent as Cave Johnson in real life.Yet here we are.

  18. says

    Because it’s Musk, I actually think the Venn diagram of people who would stand in line for this and people who refuse vaccines would overlap. Not by a lot, but enough to be surprising.

    Anyway, I’m putting off getting a smart phone until I won’t be able to function in society without one (and if you have one you’re probably unaware of how close that day is getting). There’s no way I’m letting anyone put anything Musk-related into my skull.

  19. DanDare says

    The idea of the brain as a computer is so flawed. A brian physically rearranges itself as it experiences inputs.
    Its organisational structure may fit a pattern but its details from one individual to the next can be way way way out of kilter with expectations.
    Imagine if you wrote a configuration file for a database in some text format and then the computer, each time you use the DB, starts reorganising and tinkering with the config file, maybe pulling out important bits and putting them in the DB itself.
    Neuralink weould then be like a config tool, expecting that file to be as it was and falling over big time when it finds the changes.

  20. robro says

    Good news…Musk is planning to get a Neuralink implant himself. In fact, he would make a great prototype. Of course, that’s if the FDA lets him do it at all which I doubt because it is a medical procedure which requires years of testing to get the necessary approvals.

  21. StevoR says

    To think I actually used to quite admire Elon Musk once .. seems a long time ago now and know much more about what a total douchebag he is now.

    Still got a lot of time for SpaceX and hope they aren’t too badly affected by Musk’s latest farcical, appalling words and actions.

  22. moonslicer says

    “Anyway, I’m putting off getting a smart phone until I won’t be able to function in society without one (and if you have one you’re probably unaware of how close that day is getting).”

    @ #26 Tabby

    Good for you! And you’re right. The day is coming very soon when we won’t be able to function without a smart phone.

    Recently I had to close down a bank account because they were insisting that I have a smart phone that I didn’t really need. I have another bank account that doesn’t require one and I get along fine without it.

    This is an on-going argument I have with my son: the way we’re constantly being pushed around by businesses, government bodies, etc., simply because they can get away with pushing us around. He thinks I’m an old stick-in-the-mud, and he’s right, but I think bit by bit he’s coming around to seeing that there’s something to my argument.

    In the last few days, yet again I’ve made a fool of myself because I was up against a rule that I’d forgotten about. As usual there’s no real need for the rule, but what I’ve seen is that this isn’t any more just a rule imposed on us from on high. It’s so widely accepted now that it’s become a part of our culture.

    And my son can see how it’s hurting him. Potentially it could hurt both of us very badly. And he himself has admitted that it’s become “a massive issue”, mainly because the company he works for imposes it on their customers. So I limp along as best as I can (currently still without a smart phone).

  23. Kagehi says

    Lets be clear what the even “bigger” problem is. While “hearing” implants are totally still a thing, when was the last time anything involving “eyes” was mentioned in the news, or science papers, etc.? See, the problem is, like everything else capitalist, it only lasts as long as its “profitable”. There are an unknown number of people out there with failing devices, which they can’t get fixed, because no one repairs/replaces them, and the company that first put them in has gone out of business. People who went from totally blind, to, “I can sort of see text!”, to blind again, because it wasn’t “profitable enough” for the developers of the tech to stay in business. So.. what the F happens with freaking Neuralink when it turns out to be, not a huge success, even if it works at all, which everyone wants, and instead something only a few rich idiots, and some people with serious problems, which maybe it does address, are the only customers, and, as a result, the company that makes all the freaking tech involved goes under? Does it just stop working, or, due to what its supposed to do, according to Musk, does it start malfunctioning with disastrous results?

    So, its not just, “Will it ever work?”, but, “What happens when you can’t buy freaking replacement parts, or get someone to fix a glitch?” Assuming only rich idiots have it installed, this might almost be funny, but since part of the reason for it, from the scientists perspective is to help people with disabilities, its not remotely f-ing funny.

  24. says

    @nomaduk: Thanks, I read the book. The problem with the “Terminal Man” scenario, IIRC, is not that the brain-altering implant didn’t work or worked badly or was made by incompetents; in fact, it worked exactly as intended, but the patient managed to override the failsafe by intentionally thinking thoughts that triggered it, until it no longer worked as often or continually as it had to. I’m pretty sure Muskalink’s products will never rise to that level of competence.

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