Will This “Neural Lace” Brain Implant Help Us Compete with AI?

Solar-powered self-driving cars, reusable space ships, Hyperloop transportation, a mission to colonize Mars: Elon Musk is hell-bent on turning these once-far-fetched fantasies into reality. But none of these technologies has made him as leery as artificial intelligence. Earlier this summer at Code Conference 2016, Musk stated publicly that given the current rate of A.I. advancement, humans could ultimately expect to be left behind—cognitively, intellectually—“by a lot.” His solution to this unappealing fate is a novel brain-computer interface similar to the implantable “neural lace” described by the Scottish novelist Iain M. Banks in Look to Windward, part of his “Culture series” books. Along with serving as a rite of passage, it upgrades the human brain to be more competitive against A.I.’s with human-level or higher intelligence.

Smarter artificial intelligence is certainly being developed, but how far along are we on producing a neural lace? At the conference, Musk said he didn’t know of any company that was working on one. But last year, a team of researchers led by Charles Lieber, the Mark Hyman Professor of Chemistry at Harvard University, described in Nature Nanotechnology a lace-like electronic mesh that “you could literally inject” into three-dimensional synthetic and biological structures like the brain. That was a major step.

His team’s paper

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