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.