Jan Hünermann

22. May 2019 - Essay on the Neural Lace

Imag­ine a world where arti­fi­cial gen­er­al intel­li­gence is a thing, where robots assem­ble robots, where com­put­ers cure can­cer, and where every­thing we do today is auto­mat­ed. In such a robot world, the prob­lems arise with humans – not robots. What is left to do for us, if we are replaced in every­thing we do today? More impor­tant­ly, how can com­put­ers align with our val­ues, so they work with us and not against us?

The Solu­tion

In my opin­ion, an inevitable solu­tion is a device called neur­al lace. It’s a brain implant that extends your intel­li­gence by con­nect­ing neu­rons in your brain to an arti­fi­cial neur­al net­work. It works by repli­cat­ing process­es of your brain, with the speed and scal­a­bil­i­ty perks of sil­i­con. Wear­ing such a device must feel like an epiphany, where sud­den­ly you can make sense of things you could not before.

Why is a neur­al lace inevitable? First of all, it keeps humans at work – as they are not replaced but aug­ment­ed. Sec­ond, it’s of high eco­nom­ic inter­est because it increas­es pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. Final­ly, it solves the prob­lem of val­ue-align­ment: a neur­al lace doesn’t act on its own, keep­ing humans in charge. These rea­sons make me to strong­ly believe a neur­al lace to be inevitable in a post-AGI world.

Although a neur­al lace may solve some of AGI’s prob­lems, it inher­ent­ly comes with new, big­ger controversies.

Bye, Mer­i­toc­ra­cy

Top of soci­ety has always con­sist­ed of the bright­est minds, the great­est thinkers, the ones who come up with best ideas and most inge­nious inven­tions. If we assume a neur­al lace to be inevitable, peo­ple hav­ing access to such a device will out­smart oth­ers. They will have unat­tain­able brain capa­bil­i­ties, will be able to mem­o­rize and com­pre­hend more than their peers and will be able to see con­nec­tions where oth­ers don’t. Hence, access to such devices will be very desir­able. To be at top of the soci­ety will mean hav­ing a neur­al lace. This slash­es even the slight­est delu­sion of a mer­i­toc­ra­cy, as only the one per­cent may be able to afford such devices. Sud­den­ly being rich means being smart.

As cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties grow, lead­er­ship and val­ue-cre­ation in the soci­ety will shift towards intel­li­gence-aug­ment­ed peo­ple. Being 100x more intel­li­gent than your rivals will obvi­ous­ly mean out­per­form­ing them. Being smarter also means pro­duc­ing things, that peo­ple need, more effi­cient­ly. As more val­ue is cre­at­ed by intel­li­gence aug­ment­ed peo­ple this way, a social divide is unavoid­able. If 99% of the pop­u­la­tion accounts only for 1% of val­ue cre­ation in the econ­o­my, soci­ety will be split. Two groups emerge: a small, elite group of peo­ple who have access to neur­al laces, and the rest. In my opin­ion, this will be the biggest con­tro­ver­sy in the his­to­ry of mankind.