Brains and computers,We can remember it for you wholesale,Elon Musk enters the world of brain-computer interfaces伊隆·马斯克步入脑机连接的世界
EVER since ENIAC, the first computer that could be operated by a single person, began flashing its ring counters in 1946, human beings and calculating machines have been on a steady march towards tighter integration. Computers entered homes in the 1980s, then migrated onto laps, into pockets and around wrists. In the laboratory, computation has found its way onto molars and into eyeballs. The logical conclusion of all this is that computers will, one day, enter the brain.
This, at least, is the bet behind a company called Neuralink, just started by Elon Musk, a serial technological entrepreneur. Information about Neuralink is sparse, but trademark filings state that it will make invasive devices for treating or diagnosing neurological ailments. Mr Musk clearly has bigger plans, though. He has often tweeted cryptic messages referring to “neural lace”, a science-fictional concept invented by Iain M. Banks, a novelist, that is, in essence, a machine interface woven into the brain.
起码一家名叫Neuralink的公司押下了这一赌注。这家公司刚由开创了一系列科技业务的企业家伊隆·马斯克(Elon Musk)设立。关于该公司的信息寥寥，但其商标申请文件称公司将打造用于治疗及诊断神经系统疾病的侵入性装置。不过，马斯克无疑还有更宏伟的计划。他经常在推特上发些令人捉摸不透、谈及“神经织网”(neural lace)的消息。这一科幻概念是由小说家伊恩·M·班克斯(Iain M. Banks)所构想，从本质上说，就是将机器界面植入人脑。
Although devices that can read and write data to and from the brain as easily as they would to and from a computer remain firmly in the realm of imagination, that has not stopped neuroscientists (and, of course, Mr Musk) from indulging in some speculation. Theodore Berger of the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles, has proposed that brain implants might be used to store and retrieve memories. Dr Berger’s prosthesis would be intended to help those whose brains cannot form long-term memories because they are damaged. But if the idea worked, there seems little reason why those without damage should not and would not want something similar. Mr Musk himself, more ambitiously still, imagines an implant that would let the wearer tap directly into the internet, and all of the computational power available there.
Of minds and melding 人脑与融合
Behind this suggestion lies Mr Musk’s argument, made repeatedly, that human beings need to embrace brain implants to stay relevant in a world which, he believes, will soon be dominated by artificial intelligence. Proposing the artificial augmentation of human intelligence as a response to a boom in artificial intelligence may seem a bit much. But Mr Musk’s new company is not alone. A firm called Kernel is following a similar path.
To start with, Kernel’s engineers hope to build devices for the treatment of neurological conditions such as strokes and Alzheimer’s disease. Ultimately, however, they want to create cognition-enhancing implants that anyone might care to buy. Kernel was founded in October 2016 by Bryan Johnson, an entrepreneur who, like Mr Musk, got rich by processing payments online (PayPal, which Mr Musk helped found, bought Braintree, Mr Johnson’s company, in 2013). Mr Johnson put $100m of his own money into Kernel, stating that “unlocking our brain is the most significant and consequential opportunity in history.”