As appeared in bizreport.com, by Kristina Knight
June 22, 2017
Facebook has announced plans to build a computer-brain interface, giving many people pause. And leaving many of us wondering - just what would this next chapter in the advancement of communication mean? We asked Starmind's Pascal Kaufmann to weigh in.
Kristina: How close are we to actual cyborg development?
Pascal Kaufmann, Founder, Starmind: Once we crack the Brain Code, we will be close to being able to develop cyborgs. The real question is when will we crack the brain code? The brain has a little less than 100 billion brain cells, each with up to 10,000 connections to other brain cells. This network is conceivably complex. Only 10% of the brain is made up of neurons, which we still know very little about. The remaining 90% of brain cells are glial cells, of which we know almost nothing about. Once the scientific community comes together to share their knowledge on studying the brain, we will start to make real progress. I believe that we do not need to understand every single cell of the brain before we can crack the brain code, we just need to understand the fundamental concepts of how the brain works. Once we understand this, we can apply those concepts to machines. It is at this point where cyborgs, true AI, and synthetic humans will start to emerge as realities.
Kristina: What are your thoughts on the Facebook and Musk announcements?
Pascal: Having bold visions and making ambitious predictions characterizes some of today's most regarded tech entrepreneurs. There seem to be no limits and one can easily fall prey to believe that everything is possible. Despite some gradual improvements in speech recognition these days, understanding of context and meaning is still far beyond our technological capabilities. Taking a short cut through directly interfacing human brains and circumventing the highly complex translation from nerve signals into speech and back from speech recognition into nerve signals, I consider one of the more creative contributions in the last few months. It is certainly an alternative to the brute force approaches and the unjustified AI hype that seems like climbing a tree rather than building a space rocket. Zuckerberg's announcement describes a spacerocket, it is up to us now to develop the technology to aim for the moon.
Kristina: Tell us more about Neuralink.
Pascal: As far as Neuralink goes, I am a big fan of Elon Musk as I like his bold visions and ambitious predictions. For Elon, there seems to be no limits and I like his mindset that provokes us all to think "everything is possible": I fear though, that this time my idol is mistaken. Elon believes that the brain works very much like a computer does. Whilst Tesla, Space-X and many other endeavors are possible with a lot of efforts, sweat and cash, the brain code cannot be unlocked even with unlimited cash resources as long as the underlying theoretical neuroscientific foundations are missing or just plain wrong. Where Elon is going wrong is with comparing the brain to a computer.
A few hundred years ago people thought that there were pumps and wheels in the brain-- I would almost bet that back in the day there were theories that by means of very small pumps and wheels one could communicate with brains. The people of the time took the most complex technology of their time and equated it (wrongly) to the most complex organ on earth. Comparing the brain to a computer is applying the same false thinking that was used hundreds of years ago.
More from Pascal and Starmind tomorrow, including what these developments could mean for existing AR/VR technology.