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Elon Musk and a warning of dystopian future of AI: What is digital and biological computing?

Amrutha Pagad
Amrutha PagadAug 03, 2022 | 12:48

Elon Musk and a warning of dystopian future of AI: What is digital and biological computing?

Elon Musk says digital compute is progressing faster than biological compute. Photo: Getty Images

Elon Musk's tweets are hilarious, market-moving, or lawsuit-enabling comments. Sometimes, they are also interesting and informative. On Wednesday, August 3, 2022, Musk made a statement about digital and biological computing. He said that the former is growing faster than the latter and we need to be tracking the data. 

What is he talking about? I had to re-read the tweet twice to understand what he is talking about. After a little bit of research, I discovered another aspect of a futuristic society that we do indeed need to talk about. After a long time, Musk has actually tweeted something that makes sense. 

Short answer: AI takeover and the need to merge humans and machines. 

Off the bat, it is clear that Musk is talking about artificial intelligence and of course about a subject that is related to one of his companies - Neuralink. 

To understand digital and biological computing ratios better, we need to know what Neuralink does.

Neuralink aims to put computer chips in human brains to allow us to complete tasks such as typing, pressing buttons, moving the cursor etc by just thinking about it. In pop culture, you can find references to such technology in Cyborgs - a human and machine hybrid. 

So, how are digital and biological computing related? To understand this, let's answer a few questions:

What is digital computing? It is the collective brainpower of a computer, like your mobile phone or laptop or a self-driving car. 

What is biological computing? There are two definitions to this. One refers to the collective brainpower of humans. The human brain is still the most sophisticated computer to exist. 

Second, it also refers to organic technology that is used for certain medical purposes using human DNA or cells as data. DNA systems are one example of such a technology. 

When Musk says that "the ratio of digital to biological compute is growing fast", he is referring to the belief that artificial intelligence is progressing at a faster rate than our natural human brains including the human and machine hybrid technology. 

It is not the first time that Musk has spoken about this. He's been quite vocal about the fear that AI will become more powerful than humans in the future. 

In 2019, when a Twitter user asked him whether Neuralink was the answer to giving humanity a defence against AI takeover, Musk answered by saying that there are two reasons - long-term and short-term. 

He also spoke at length on the subject in 2017 during the launch of Tesla in the UAE. He explained that computers communicate at the speed of "a trillion bits per second", while humans communicate through typing via phones or laptops at 10 bits per second.

Using this explanation, he said that AI can one day become "smarter than the smartest human on earth", a dangerous situation for humanity. The Tesla and SpaceX founder claimed that humans would become slower and irrelevant in a future ruled by artificial intelligence. 

An example of this would be human drivers losing their jobs with the advent of driverless cars in the near future. 

What's the solution? According to Musk, the solution to avoid a Terminator-like fate of humans is to merge humans with digital intelligence; exactly what his company, Neuralink, wants to do. 

There's a term for the theory of cyborgs too - it's called transhumanism. It was first coined in 1957 in an essay. 

Do you think that we are progressing a lot slower than our AI counterparts?

Last updated: August 03, 2022 | 12:48
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