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Elon Musk Just Launched A Company That Can Link Your Brain To A Computer

Michelle Blair

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If you’re thinking to yourself, “The title of this article sounds like it belongs in Hollywood, not science,” you are surprisingly mistaken. Elon Musk just unveiled his plans to revolutionize the human-technology relationship by creating a company whose sole mission is to link the human brain with computers.

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Although this technological advancement was inevitable to some, especially given the fact that Musk has voiced his support of using technology to advance human intelligence on numerous occasions, the launch of his company doesn’t come without concerns. Will merging our brains with computers further accelerate the collective consciousness or is this a step in the wrong direction? How will this alter the human experience and our connections? Will this benefit society as a whole or will only the elite be able to afford it, further perpetuating social division and separatism?

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Musk’s New Company That’s Linking Brains to Computers

Earlier this week, Elon Musk launched his newest company, Neuralink, which is in the process of developing a “neural lace” technology, meaning that users would be able to communicate directly with machines without using a physical interface.

More specifically, Neuralink would implant electrodes into the brain, allowing individuals to upload or download their thoughts to or from a computer. This would also enable humans to access greater intelligence and more advanced cognitive abilities.

“Long Neuralink piece coming out on @waitbutwhy in about a week. Difficult to dedicate the time, but existential risk is too high not to,” he tweeted.

Musk has actually been featured on Wait But Why before, a blog operated by Tim Urban, where many of his businesses and the science and inspiration behind them were reported on. If you’re ever confused about how Musk’s operations work, I’d highly recommend reading these blog posts. I’m actually a fan of the writing style on WBW because Urban has an uncanny ability to explain complex concepts in an accessible and understandable way.

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Although the notion of brain-computer communication may seem far-fetched, implanting electrodes into human beings isn’t a new concept, as it’s already being used to treat Parkinson’s disease. According to the Wall Street Journal, Neuralink’s technology could be used to treat other brain disorders as well, including epilepsy and more severe cases of depression.

Musk isn’t the only one hoping to develop a relationship between the brain and computers, either, as Facebook is already researching a similar technology through Building 8, its secret hardware division. The social media giant is designing a noninvasive brain-computer interface technology that will enable users to communicate with external hardware devices. Researchers at the University of California and Duke University are also creating brain-computer interface technology that gives people with paraplegia the ability to walk again.

Musk hopes that one day these implants will be able to advance brain function for even healthy people, giving us a competitive advantage against artificial intelligence (AI). Musk has voiced his opinion a number of times on the rise of AI, as he thinks that merging with AI is perhaps the best way to prevent robots from taking over all human tasks. Although I don’t think this is much of a cause for concern, the scientific community has had heated debates on the topic.

Even if AI does progress to the point that they begin to take over many low-income jobs, particularly those within the manufacturing and service industries, this doesn’t really pose a threat to us. Yes, robots will inevitably take over some of the workforce, but this just means that we will have more time and resources to access our creativity and develop and harness other skills in order to further advance society. AI doesn’t have to represent the end of the human workforce, but rather can be seen as a step toward a more progressive society.

Nevertheless, Musk has expressed his concerns that AI will eventually take over the world, treating the average human being like a pet. He believes that neural lace could prevent an individual from becoming a “house cat” to AI. Musk also supports the implementation of a Universal Basic Income (UBI), as he believes it will be necessary once people start to lose their jobs to AI (read our CE article on that here).

Again, even if AIs take our jobs, it could be an excellent opportunity for us to progress as a society because it will free up more of our time to do things that are truly meaningful for the world. Perhaps a UBI isn’t a bad idea, and it would actually be easier than you’d think to implement given that there is already enough money for everyone to thrive on Earth; it’s simply a matter of reallocating it from the elite and to the rest of the population. You can read our CE article on Musk’s opinions on robots and UBI here.

Drawing Parallels From Hollywood 

If the first thing you thought of after reading the title of this article was, “That sounds like a plot for a movie,” you’re not wrong. Tons of movies and TV shows have touched upon AI taking over the world or people merging themselves with AI to progress the human race.

The first thing I thought of after learning that Musk was launching a company to develop neural lace technology was actually two television shows: Black Mirror and West World. Season 1 Episode 3 of the TV series Black Mirror is set in an alternative reality whereby humans can have “grains” implanted into their brains that record all of their experiences, which can then be downloaded onto a computer.

Essentially, people’s memories could be downloaded onto a computer, allowing people to literally “play back” their memories in front of their own eyes or on a television screen for all to see. Of course, there were benefits to this, like being able to share past experiences with friends, having perfect memory recall, or exposing the truth of events or interactions. However, it had its downfalls, as it encouraged people to live in the past, there was a severe lack of privacy, and it disconnected people from each other and the present moment.

What if neural lace technology is only the beginning, and it eventually leads to a full merging of the brain to computers? Can privacy ever be kept if this occurs, and will it encourage us to live in the past?

Even worse, what if it eventually lets us delete our memories? This concept was discussed in the TV series West World, a show about an amusement park that’s filled with AI that look exactly like real human beings. The robots are so lifelike that they experience feelings like love, pain, and loss, but at the end of the day most of them have their memories erased. What if downloading our memories leads to our being able to delete them, too? Obviously this is far-fetched, but so was the idea of neural lace technology thirty years ago. Musk himself has even theorized that we’re all living in a computer simulation, so who’s to say anything is impossible (read more about that here)?

It may seem foolish to compare science to Hollywood, but ultimately some of what’s presented in Hollywood has a lot of truth within it. This industry often capitalizes on current trends and is used to feed us propaganda and desensitize us to real-world concepts like UFOs, foreign affairs, and international conflict. After all, corporations and even government organizations collude with the entertainment industry.

For example, the CIA has an entire department dedicated to the entertainment industry. It’s run through the CIA’s Entertainment Industry Liaison Office, which collaborates in an advisory capacity with filmmakers. The CIA doesn’t just offer guidance to filmmakers, it even offers money. In 1950, the agency bought the rights to George Orwell’s Animal Farm and then funded the 1954 British animated version of the film. You can read more about this in our CE article on whistleblower Roseanne Barr here.

So, perhaps Hollywood has created so many movies on AI as a way to desensitize us and prepare us for the inevitable? I’m not suggesting that any of this is fact, but it’s just interesting to draw parallels between the industry and the topic of AI.

Final Thoughts 

At the end of the day, AI isn’t something that needs to be feared. Recently, there’s been a lot of talk within the scientific community on how AI poses a threat to the workforce and that “a world full of AI could be a world devoid of consciousness.” What so many people seem to be forgetting is that we are fundamentally connected to everything in the universe and that everything in the world is made up of consciousness, both of which include AI.

In some way, AI is a reflection of the collective consciousness, so no matter what happens, it will serve us. Even though AI technically poses a threat to many jobs, this will simply allow us to have more time to do what we love and focus on advancing society and heightening our creativity.

People feared the Industrial Revolution for the exact same reason that they fear AI: They were scared they’d lose their jobs. However, if we learned anything from that time, it’s that more jobs will open up and it will only help advance our society. Of course, there are many things we need to be cautious of when it comes to AI, but if we design AI with the intention of benefiting the collective, then AI isn’t something to fear, but rather embrace.

 

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Consciousness

New Study Finds Humans Can Access a Higher Level of Consciousness

Gautam Peddada

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Photo By Zelenov Iurii

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A new study sheds light on the existence of a higher level of consciousness in humans that is accessible.

  • Reflect On:

    Does consciousness originate in the brain or somewhere else? What does this say about who 'we' are as humans?

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New research has discovered verifiable evidence of a higher level of consciousness. Researchers used brain imaging equipment to analyze the small magnetic fields created in the brain and discovered that, across three psychedelic substances, one measure of conscious level — neural signal diversity — was consistently greater.

Neuroscientists discovered a prolonged increase in neural signal diversity — a measure of the complexity of brain activity — in persons under the influence of psychedelic substances as compared to when they were awake.

The variety of brain impulses gives a mathematical indicator of awareness degree. People who are awake, for example, have more diversified brain activity than those who are asleep, according to this measure.

However, this is the first study to show that brain-signal diversity is more than baseline, that is, greater than in someone who is merely ‘awake and aware.’ Previous research has focused on decreased states of awareness, such as sleep, anesthesia, or the so-called vegetative state. More research utilizing complex and diverse models is required, according to the researchers, who are cautiously hopeful.

Professor Anil Seth, Co-Director of the University of Sussex’s Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, stated:

“This discovery demonstrates that the brain on psychedelics functions quite differently than usual.”

“As evaluated by ‘global signal diversity,’ the electrical activity of the brain during the psychedelic experience is less predictable and less ‘integrated’ than during regular conscious wakefulness.”

“Since this measure has already shown its value as a measure of ‘conscious level’, we can say that the psychedelic state appears as a higher ‘level’ of consciousness than normal — but only with respect to this specific mathematical measure.”

For the study, Michael Schartner, Adam Barrett, and Professor Seth of the Sackler Centre reanalyzed data that had previously been collected by Imperial College London and the University of Cardiff in which healthy volunteers were given one of three drugs known to induce a psychedelic state: psilocybin, ketamine, and LSD.

Using brain imaging equipment, scientists examined the small magnetic fields created in the brain and discovered that, across all three medicines, this measure of conscious level — neural signal diversity — was consistently greater.

The researchers emphasize that this does not imply that the psychedelic state is a “better” or “more desirable” state of consciousness; rather, it demonstrates that the psychedelic brain state is distinct and can be related to other global changes in conscious level (e.g., sleep, anesthesia) by using a simple mathematical measure of signal diversity.

“That identical improvement in signal diversity was discovered for all three medications, despite their rather distinct pharmacology, are both quite remarkable and also encouraging that the results are robust and reproducible,” said Dr. Muthukumaraswamy, who was involved in all three original research.

The findings might help feed ongoing conversations concerning the strictly supervised medical usage of such medications, such as in the treatment of severe depression.

“Rigorous research into psychedelics is garnering greater interest, not least because of the therapeutic potential that these substances may have when taken wisely and under medical supervision,” said Dr. Robin Cahart-Harris of Imperial College London.

“The current study’s findings assist us to comprehend what happens in people’s brains when they experience psychedelic consciousness expansion. People frequently report having “insight” when using these substances, and when this occurs in a therapeutic setting, it can predict beneficial outcomes. The current discoveries may help us understand how this is possible.”

In addition to informing potential medical applications, the study contributes to developing scientific knowledge of how conscious level (how conscious one is) and conscious content (what one is conscious of) are connected.

According to Professor Seth:

“We discovered links between the intensity of subjects’ psychedelic experiences and variations in signal diversity. This shows that our metric is closely related not just to global brain alterations caused by medicines, but also to features of brain dynamics that underpin specific kinds of conscious experience.”

The study team is currently concentrating their efforts on determining how particular alterations in information flow in the brain underpin certain components of the psychedelic experience, such as hallucinations.

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Scientists Propose That We Can Travel Faster Than The Speed of Light

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CE Staff Writer 5 minute read

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A new paper suggest travel faster than the speed of light might be possible given the creation of a new way of looking at propelling a vehicle.

  • Reflect On:

    When considering the advancement of life changing technology, does our current economic model speed up or suppress the collaboration, creation and advancement of ideas?

Before you begin...

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In Star Trek Gene Roddenberry imagined it possible to set a ship into ‘warp drive’ and travel at speeds 6000+ times the speed of light, moving from one galaxy to a distant one very quickly. Imagine having that type of technology here on earth?! It has been said before that if we can think it, we can create it. Well, maybe that’s sometimes true.

What Happened:

The question of whether travel faster than the speed of light is possible was again approached in a new research paper written by an American physicist Erik Lentz. In the paper Lentz proposed a new theory for how faster-than-light travel could be possible. Given their models, Lentz and his team feel that travel to distant stars and planets could be possible in the near future, perhaps with proper research and development they could have something working in as little as 10 years.

The question of whether this is possible does not challenge our current understanding of physics that Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity sets forth that it is not possible to travel faster than light.

Instead of focusing on our current understanding of matter, Lentz’s new paper puts greater importance on a possible engineering solution as opposed to the theoretical physics. The new paper was published in Classical and Quantum Gravity.

The paper proposes a plan to travel faster than light by creating a series of ‘solitons’ to provide the basis for propulsion. A soliton is a compact wave that keeps its speed and shape while moving with little loss of energy.

Interestingly, this technology would allow travel at ANY speed. This brings me back to an article I wrote yesterday discussing the incoming reality within collective consciousness that UFOs and Extraterrestrials are real. In that article I state that the question of ‘how are they getting here’ is of importance as it could give humanity access to technology that would completely change the way we live on this planet.

 [The method] “uses the very structure of space and time arranged in a soliton to provide a solution to faster-than-light travel,” From the press release.

Imagine this, the nearest star beyond our solar system is called Proxima Centauri. We know it to be about 4.25 light years away. (A light year is the distance it takes light to travel in one year.)

Lentz stated that using our current rocket fuel methods fo travel, it would take about 50,000 to 70,000 years to reach Proxima Centauri. If we were to upgrade to nuclear propulsion technology, it would take about 100 years. But if we employed a light speed warp drive, it would take only four years and three months.

This would mean that the average person would be able to travel to distant interstellar planets and complete the trip in a current human lifetime. Think of the vacations!

According to Lentz there are some barriers to making this all work, but they aren’t impossible to surpass. For the tech to work, it would require lowering the energy needed down to the level of modern nuclear power reactors. That is if we don’t take into consideration energy technologies that are currently suppressed. Lentz also stated that what would be needed is a  way to develop and speed up the solitons (waves.)

“This work has moved the problem of faster-than-light travel one step away from theoretical research in fundamental physics and closer to engineering,”

Why Its Matters:

Humans are curious beings who seem to gain a great deal from expanding our curiosity beyond everyday plights of a system and way of life that doesn’t necessarily inspire the deepest use of our creativity. Perhaps a knowing that we can indeed go elsewhere without primitive technology would shift the way we see our role on this earth and how we choose to fight over what we believe are limited resources.

Then again, perhaps if humans carry their current story of separation and competition to other worlds, we’ll produce the same mess there. I guess the question is, would the possibility of being able to leave this earth and go almost anywhere change the underlying nature of how we choose to set up our cultural beliefs and narratives of what it means to be human?

It’s my feeling that humanity does not lack the solutions to live in a thriving world, we lack the worldview and state of being. Both of which we could change with a little effort.

The Takeaway:

When I hear research like this I am fascinated. Then again I also sometimes wonder if all scientists around the world saw the technology I have seen first hand, that completely changes the way we perceive energy generation today, would the way we look at creating technology that requires energy change entirely? Yes, of course it would.

In my mind and heart I see a world of true collaboration and curiosity. One where we aren’t competing to see who’s the greatest scientist with the best copy written tech, but a world where we transparently share what is out there to advance the entire human race. No powerful interests suppressing technology because it’s too threatening to an economy, but instead true open advancement where we can solve problems incredibly fast.

Can you imagine this world?

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What Causes Déjà Vu? The Neuroscience Behind The Memory Illusion

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CE Staff Writer 5 minute read

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Current explanations from the field of neuroscience suggest that déjà vu occurs when the brain is slightly fatigued and working to 'fact check' a memory. We experience this as being odd because we become aware of the process.

  • Reflect On:

    Might we explore a different explanation for déjà vu if we were looking at it from the standpoint of time being non linear and perhaps opening up to the idea of a collective consciousness?

Before you begin...

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They say about 60% of people experience déjà vu during their life, right off the bat that hit me as something I didn’t expect as I feel like almost everyone I know has had it at one time or another. Déjà vu, (‘already seen’ to the French) is the feeling that you are re-living something that has happened before. In the movie The Matrix, where déjà vu is perhaps most thought of in pop culture, Neo experiences a cat going by a doorway twice in a matter of seconds. Same cat, same moves, same everything.

In the film, this moment is presented as a ‘glitch in the matrix,’ however, in real life, déjà vu doesn’t often happen like what is seen in The Matrix, it instead feels as though you can’t recall when the ‘other memory’ happened, more so that what you are experiencing right now has already happened at some time.

Let’s dive into what some believe neuroscience is offering as an explanation.

What Happened:

According to experts like Dr Akira O’Connor, who is a senior psychology lecturer at the University of St Andrews, déjà vu is not only a feeling of familiarity, but also the metacognitive recognition that these feelings are misplaced. In simple terms:

“Déjà vu is basically a conflict between the sensation of familiarity and the awareness that the familiarity is incorrect. And it’s the awareness that you’re being tricked that makes déjà vu so unique compared to other memory events.”

Neuroscientists have determined that this memory illusion occurs when the frontal regions of the brain are attempting to correct an inaccurate memory.

“For the vast majority of people, experiencing déjà vu is probably a good thing. It’s a sign that the fact-checking brain regions are working well, preventing you from misremembering events. In a healthy person, such misremembering is going to happen every day. This is to be expected because your memory involves millions and billions of neurones. It’s very messy.”

While there isn’t a completely agreed upon explanation for what happens in the brain when déjà vu occurs, most models suggest that déjà vu occurs when areas of the brain (such as the temporal lobe) feed the mind’s frontal regions signals that a past experience is repeating itself. The frontal decision making parts of the brain then checks to see if the memory is actually true or possible, perhaps saying something to the effect “have I been here before?”

“If you have actually been in that place before, you may try harder to retrieve more memories. If not, a déjà vu realization can occur.”

It’s typically believed that we are more susceptible to déjà vu when the mind is a bit more fatigued and not as quick to discern that validity of our current moment.

Why It Matters:

What fascinated me about this in particular is two things: I’ve long felt that it’s quite possible that memories may actually be non local, i.e. they exist outside the brain not in the brain, and that perhaps the brain tunes into those memories that are somewhere around us. Or maybe we could say that some memory may exist in the brain, while others are part of some sort of collective field.

The second fascinating part for me is that I wonder if déjà vu has something to do with emerging science that tells us time is not linear. Perhaps when we take a classic scientific model that states all time is linear and all experience is linear, we limit our explanation of what déjà vu might be to something that fits that paradigm. What if the brain is tuning into something relating to quantum potentials that always exist, and that perhaps something different is happening with déjà vu? I’m not sure yet, however this is where déjà vu intrigues me the most.

Of course, the end result of exploring a question like this invites us to shift our worldview around the nature of reality, time and experience. Something that might be uncomfortable for some but I feel post material science is inviting us to do.

The Takeaway:

As with anything that is happening in our lives right now it seems, we are culturally in a time where a long avoided shift in our scientific paradigm is creating a lack of meaningful explanations for many things that happen in life. Is déjà vu one of those things that doesn’t have a good explanation in our current scientific paradigm? The jury might still be out on that, but for me, the current explanation presented in this piece did not quite ‘do it for me’ and my inquisitive mind and gut feeling pushes me to explore these questions through the emerging paradigm of non material science.

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