Elon Musk: Humans Need ‘Neural Lace’ to Compete With AI

elon musk artificial intelligence AI neural lace
Elon Musk, the co-founder of all-electric U.S. car maker Tesla, at a conference in Hong Kong, January 26. Musk believes humans need to add a layer of digital intelligence to their brains in order to compete with AI. PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Billionaire polymath Elon Musk has warned that humans risk being treated like house pets by artificial intelligence (AI) unless they implant technology into their brains.

Musk believes that a technology concept known as “neural lace” could act as a wireless brain-computer interface capable of augmenting natural intelligence.

Speaking at the Code Conference in California on Wednesday, Musk said a neural lace could work “well and symbiotically” with the rest of a human’s body.

“I don’t love the idea of being a house cat, but what’s the solution? I think one of the solutions that seems maybe the best is to add an AI layer,” Musk said.

“Something I think is going to be quite important—I don’t know of a company that’s working on it seriously—is a neural lace.”

The novelist Iain M. Banks first came up with the term neural lace to describe a futuristic mesh that moulds to the brain in order to allow neurons to be programmed. While the concept may originate from science fiction, it does have a basis in real science.

A paper published in Nature Nanotechnology in 2015 described how a flexible circuit was injected into the brains of living mice in order to interact with neurons.

“We’re trying to blur the distinction between electronic circuits and neural circuits,” said Charles Lieber, a researcher at Harvard University and co-author of the study.

“We have to walk before we can run, but we think we can really revolutionize our ability to interface with the brain.”