Elon Musk is attempting to turn what was science fiction into reality. He is much like the proverbial mad scientist who has visions that mere mortals have trouble fathoming. He began with electric cars by founding Tesla Motors in 2003. Musk has far surpassed that initial concept.
He envisions such things as an entire network of tunnels underneath sprawling metropolitan areas across the globe. These would funnel traffic underground in order to alleviate traffic congestion. Moreover, Musk sees tourist trips to the moon becoming as routine as airline flights.
He is talking about human colonization of Mars as if it is a foregone conclusion. Musk has even visualized directly connecting the human brain to the internet.
All of these ideas are the stuff of sci-fi stories; past and present. Yet Musk not only believes it can be done, but he is also striving to turn all of these into reality, with each passing day.
This imaginative entrepreneur would probably be dismissed as a kook if he was only about his ideas. Musk is worth watching, for two good reasons.
First, he actually has some real money to put toward his concepts. Second, he pursues these with boundless energy and is making tangible progress toward reaching his improbable goals.
Colonization of Mars in 10 Years or Less
Musk has publicly stated his intention to begin the process of colonizing Mars in 10 years or less. He is also planning and working toward that goal. His ideas for this are indeed ambitious, but not entirely implausible.
Musk’s plan has a name, the Interplanetary Travel System, or ITS. The ITS is a two-part procedure. It involves the construction of a massive spaceship meant to transport up to 100 people, at a time, in conjunction with outfitting that vessel with nine of the new Raptor rockets, which SpaceX has already tested.
The linkup of the spaceship with the rockets, as well as the launch, would be done from orbit. Musk expects the trip to take, an astounding, 80 days. That is far less than the current six to nine-month timeline for travel to Mars. Once the ship was safely landed, construction of artificial habitats would begin, along with a power station to refuel the ship for the return trip.
The plan has some ambitious preparations to complete, before humans moving to Mars can become a reality. In order for colonization to succeed, the Martian landscape would need to be scouted, to determine the best possible locations for human habitation.
Musk has planned for this contingency, as well. He announced his intention for a reconnaissance flight to Mars in 2020. The flight will be tasked with locating and mapping the best areas of the planet to begin a process of colonization.
Musk Invading Inner Space
In addition to conquering outer space, Musk is now daring to venture into inner space. He announced that he is hiring for a new company, Neuralink, to link the human brain to the internet:
Neuralink will build a brain computer interface (BCI) or “neural lace” that will eventually “upload thoughts” to the internet but, along the way, deftly heal those with epilepsy, Parkinson’s and depression, and restore function to people with stroke and brain injury for good measure.
It is easy to imagine what can go wrong with such a venture. Visions of a giant network of people, not unlike in the film “The Matrix,” come to mind. Yet, Musk shows little, or no, hesitation in pursuing this concept and is charging full speed ahead.
This does not mean that Musk is oblivious to the risks of such a venture. However, he has a dual-faceted goal in mind when it comes to Neuralink. One goal is the ability to aid those who are afflicted with brain trauma, injury, and disease. The other goal is more far-sighted.
Countering The Threat of AI
Musk believes that Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is both inevitable and potentially dangerous to humans. In order to prepare and combat the danger, he desires to construct brain-implanted nodes which would connect to an external network of nodes the person would wear like a hat. The brain cap would wirelessly connect to the internet.
For Musk, the big concern is AI safety:
AI is obviously going to surpass human intelligence by a lot. There’s some risk at that point that something bad happens, something that we can’t control, that humanity can’t control after that point — either a small group of people monopolize AI power, or the AI goes rogue, or something like that.
He supposes that, in order to counter the hazards of AI, human beings must, themselves, become a cyborg-like version of AI. The concept is very intriguing. A network of people connected to each other and the resources of the internet.
Thus, humanity could pool its intelligence, augmented by the power of the internet, to keep malevolent AI in check. In true Musk fashion, he has an ambitious timeline for the project. He projects the first version of brain-enhanced human beings could be ready in just four years.
What Is Coming Next
Whatever one thinks of Elon Musk, it must be admitted he is turning science fiction ideas into possibilities for reality. Only he knows what might happen next from his furtive mind. One thing is certain. To quote Star Trek’s Mr. Spock, it will be “fascinating.”
By D.T. Osborn
Editing by Cathy Milne
CNBC: Elon Musk Is Rushing to Beat NASA to Mars, perhaps during Trump Presidency
KURZWEIL NEWS: Elon Musk wants to enhance us as superhuman cyborgs to deal with superintelligent AI
QUARTZ: SpaceX is building the world’s most powerful rocket, and it is nearly ready to fly
The Sydney Morning Herald: Elon Musk building brain-computer interface to protect against AI singularity
Featured Image Courtesy of Heisenberg Media’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Top Image Courtesy of Kevin Gill’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Steve Jurvetson’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License