In this 38,000-word (really) long post (Neuralink and the Brain's Magical Future), Tim Urban does a brilliant analysis of why Elon Musk wants to start Neuralink — his latest company that wants to build a neural lace, a high bandwidth whole brain interface that can read and write to the brain at the same speed computers read and write data to each other. The post is split into 6 parts, and although there's no way I can do justice to a post this long by trying to summarize it here, I can go through some of my top observations from the post:
- Part 1: The Human Colossus: This part is about realizing the importance of how important an invention language has been. Instead of everyone's brain staying isolated, we could start working towards a combined human colossus by talking to each other and passing our collective knowledge down the generations.
- Part 2: The Brain: This part is a thorough course on the various parts and mechanics of our brains. Reading this part made me truly appreciate the complexity of our brains for the first time.
- Part 3: Brain-Machine Interfaces: This part describes the current state of BMIs. Besides realizing that the existing BMIs are totally primitive compared to what Neuralink wants to build, it was interesting to learn about an experiment where two people in separate rooms were connected via EEG over the internet, and were able to play a single player video game as one person, with one person viewing the screen, and the other person with the joystick. In other words, in a very primitive way, the brains were talking to each other directly.
- Part 4: Neuralink’s Challenge: Bandwidth and Implantation are the two biggest hurdles in making this "wizard hat" as Tim calls it, and breakthroughs in this will ignite the entire industry. It is these breakthroughs that Neuralink is after.
- Part 5: The Wizard Era: There are two levels to visualize this world where our brains are essentially connected to computers. First one: we increase the communication speed to be greater than the speed at which we think, which is 100x faster than typing. Second one: in near future, as General AI comes into existence, a Wizard Hat will make us one with the General AI, thereby making it an extension of ours, as opposed to it being our master, and us being the slave.
- Part 6: The Great Merger: This ties back in why while efforts like OpenAI solve the for the people, by the people parts of making the General AI democratic, it's still questionable whether it will be of the people until we truly merge with it. This great merger is the reason for starting Neuralink.
I highly recommend treating the post as a mini-book you can go over time, and you should read it. I'll leave you with this diagram that describes the general structure of thinking about Elon's companies, and how Neuralink fits this: