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The Transhumanist's Twitter: It's All About Neuralink

Musk's acquisition likely isn't about speech, but about the species' survival.

Elon Musk indicated that the decision to spend ~$44Bn to purchase Twitter was largely motivated by a sincere desire to ensure that free speech is protected in our virtual town square—because “it’s important to the function of democracy.” No doubt it was also a sound financial play in the medium-to-long term. Is there, however, something more to this acquisition than meets the eye?

Musk’s genius has brought the world more than reusable rockets, traffic-easing tunnels, new vactrain possibilities, EV sex appeal, flamethrowers, and a low-orbit internet provider. He’s also got people developing implantable brain-machine interfaces at Neuralink.

This particular Musk initiative was paid a great deal of attention back in 2020 when a pig named Gertrude, along with two others, had a coin-shaped computer device stuck in her head. The implant recorded signals running to and from her snout and brain. This porcine proof-of-concept demonstrated an interface that could one day “allow people with neurological conditions to control phones or computers with their mind.”

This past February, we learned that Neuralink isn’t just trying to interface lunch meats with machines. They’ve admitted to implanting numerous monkeys, eight of which had to be euthanized. They will not, however, have to deal with the complaints from animal rights activists for long.

Neuralink received FDA Breakthrough Device designation in July of 2020, and is on track for its first human trials by the end of this year. The likely candidates for implantation are those with severe spinal cord injuries.

With the long-term goal of achieving symbiosis between humans and artificial intelligence (which Elon regards as essential to humanity’s survival), the team at Neuralink is presently designing a neural implant that will connect the human brain and everyday technology in order “to give people the ability to communicate more easily via text or speech synthesis, to follow their curiosity on the web,” etc. Now consider what else is on people’s mobile devices and computers that they presently might want to control telekinetically…

There are three good reasons why Elon Musk’s recent purchase might all actually be about accelerating the progress being made at Neuralink.

First, it would be hugely beneficial for Neuralink-implanted persons to have a compatible social-media space to connect on, a virtual sandbox if you will. Now that Twitter is going private and Musk holds the reins, there is no reason why the platform cannot be modified to communicate and synchronize with Neuralink devices or vice versa.

Second, as brain implants become more sophisticated, such that more data is shared and parsed, it will be incredibly important to have substantial computing and storage infrastructure in place. Twitter boasts gargantuan datacenters, which Neuralink can utilize to great effect. This is a leg-up over competitors that might otherwise have to build up similar centers on their own or partner with other tech giants (e.g., Amazon, Facebook) in order to utilize theirs.

Third, the user data that Twitter has on hand will be a great boon to the engineers and AI tasked with ensuring that noosnauts (i.e. implanted persons) can express themselves quickly and accurately. Musk’s emphasis on the importance of free speech can, in this regard, be argued to be utilitarian. Neuralink would benefit from a diversity of unrestricted inputs to ensure that noosnauts have a full buffet of words, idioms, and memes to select from.

It is entirely possible that the world’s richest man bought Twitter on a lark, however, the perception that Musk is nothing but an impulsive playboy belies the fact that he is also someone with an incredible track record of successful ventures and sound strategic execution. If he truly believes that human-AI symbiosis is the means to our species’ survival, then $44Bn would be a small price to pay to make quick and substantial progress.

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