First up in the Megabrain Neuron series is, rightfully, Elon Musk with what he thinks are the most important things to work on in the near future. His top 3 are:

  1. Artificial Intelligence (AI): “[…] the single biggest item in the near-term that’s likely to affect humanity. […] think, right now, the most pressing item.
  2. Genetics: “If you can actually solve genetic diseases, if you can prevent dementia or Alzheimer’s or something like that with genetic reprogramming, that would be wonderful. […] second most important item.”
  3. High-Bandwidth Brain Interfaces: “We’re currently bandwidth-limited. We have a digital tertiary self in the form of our email capabilities, our computers, phones, applications. We’re effectively superhuman. But we’re extremely bandwidth-constrained in that interface between the cortex and that tertiary digital form of yourself.”

He goes on:

But we already have a situation in our brain where we’ve got the cortex and the limbic system… The limbic system is […] the primitive brain. That’s kind of like your instincts and whatnot. And the cortex is the thinking upper part of the brain. Those two seem to work together quite well. Occasionally, your cortex and limbic system will disagree, but […] [it] Generally works pretty well, and it’s like rare to find someone who… I’ve not found someone who wishes to either get rid of the cortex or get rid of the limbic system. […] So I think if we can effectively merge with AI by improving the neural link between your cortex and your digital extension of yourself, which already, like I said, already exists, just has a bandwidth issue. And then effectively you become an AI-human symbiote. And if that then is widespread, with anyone who wants it can have it, then we solve the control problem as well, we don’t have to worry about some sort of “evil dictator AI” because we are the AI collectively. That seems like the best outcome I can think of.

His mental model is quite interesting: it says that we already have a working version of a brain-to-another-system link with, namely, the limbic system (which we then “just” have to replicate for other systems, like AI), and that we already have a working version of a brain-to-AI link with things like simply typing, or Siri (of which we then “just” have to improve the speed and volume).

Let’s get to work, folks! 🙂

Fun fact: 25 years ago whilst still in college, Elon composed a similar top 5 list. It included “making life multi-planetary, accelerating the transmission to sustainable energy, the Internet broadly speaking, and then genetics, and AI.” He humbly “did not expect to be involved in all those things.”

I’m afraid I can’t remember what my list looked like in college, but I’m pretty sure it was filled with much more tactical things, like “beat Jeff’s score in Programming Paradigms”, “get into Extreme Blue” and “survive this hangover”.

What about you? Did you have a list in college? What was on it?

Source: Interview with Elon Musk in the “How to Build a Future” series over at Y Combinator.

  • Get weekly updates on brain tech, fitness, networking, and other fun!