Verbal communication is just too imprecise and unreliable, according to Elon Musk, which is why he is hoping to do away with it all together within the next decade.
Speaking on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast – yes, the same one he famously smoked weed on, which resulted in a $5 million NASA investigation into the suitability and professionalism of SpaceX as a government contractor – the SpaceX boss claimed that his company Neuralink could allow brain-to-brain communication in as little as five years, thereby overcoming the need to go to the trouble of actually talking.
It’s worth pointing out that the primary objective of Neuralink is not to eliminate speech. The company is developing a device that links people’s brains to a computer in order to treat brain injuries and traumas, using tiny threads that are implanted directly into the relevant parts of the brain.
“In principle it can fix almost anything that’s wrong with the brain,” said Musk. If true, this would be game-changing, though it's worth pointing out that there is no news on the first human trials that Musk announced last year would be starting this year, so this timeframe is ambitious.
Neuralink’s primary focus is to assist patients with severe neurological conditions, such as those who are paralyzed, by allowing them to control a computer using their mind, something other researchers are working on too. However, the benefits of this noble pursuit often get overshadowed by Musk's occasional foray into hyperbole.
According to the tech entrepreneur, talking is an extremely inefficient method of data exchange and can be improved by letting artificial intelligence (AI) take over. “Our brain spends a lot of effort compressing a complex concept into words and there's a lot of loss of information that occurs when compressing a complex concept into words,” he said.
Pondering a solution to this scenario, Rogan asked Musk if Neuralink could help to create a world “where you can read each other's minds and you'll be able to interface with each other in some sort of a nonverbal, non-physical way where you will transfer data back and forth to each other without having to actually use your mouth?”
In other words, this.
The Neuralink CEO said, “you would be able to communicate very quickly and with far more precision” using the device. “You wouldn’t need to talk” in order to get your ideas across, he claimed, although speech would remain a possibility “for sentimental reasons.”
When pressed on a time-frame, Musk said that the “best case scenario” would see Neuralink deliver AI-assisted non-verbal communication in five years, before adding that due to the lack of human trials it is more realistic that it would be 10 years.