Elon Musk: We'll have to become cyborg hybrids to keep up

Commentary: At the World Government Summit, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO says to stay relevant, humans will have to merge more with machines, and that comes with societal dangers.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

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Are humans as we know them done for? Musk seems to think so.

Drew Angerer, Getty Images

Take a longer look at your kids tonight and marvel at what they'll become.

Because what they'll become will likely be a hybrid of flesh and metal.

I deduce this, taking only a few liberties, from the words of famed seer Elon Musk. As CNBC reported, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO spoke on Monday at the World Government Summit in Dubai.

In a wide-ranging chat that covered life, the universe and even the tunnels he's interested in building below major cities, he told the audience: "Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence."

That's a more academic way to say: "Hey mom, your kids will grow up to be half-robots."

Musk explained why, to him, this was inevitable: "It's mostly about the bandwidth, the speed of the connection between your brain and the digital version of yourself, particularly output."

No, your digital version of yourself won't be just your selfies and your Facebook updates. You'll start to become one with the technology that will increasingly take on the burden of organizing society.

Technology demands speed. Humans can't keep up. So we have to implant technology into humans. That way, the machines will be happy because the humans will be machines.

This isn't exactly a new idea. It's been peddled for some time by, for example, Google's director of engineering Ray Kurzweil. He believes that, once chips are implanted in human brains, we'll be "godlike."

Well, who's never fancied being a deity, at least for day?

Musk admitted that he's tortured by the sheer notion of life's meaning in the future. He said he finds it more exciting to think he might die on Mars, rather than boring old Earth. He added that the notion of a "symbiosis" between man and machine ought not to sound so strange.

"To some extent, we are already a cyborg," he said. We already use computers and phones and behave as if we're somewhat attached to them, even after death. "If somebody dies, their digital ghost is still around," he said.

Musk admitted, though, that the current developments in AI will mean immediate societal upheaval. Speaking of self-driving technology, for example, he said that driving currently employs many people, "so we need to figure out new roles for what do those people do, but it will be very disruptive and very quick."

What might those new roles be? There may be no new roles at all. Musk has already floated the idea of a universal basic income for those who are cast aside by technology's rapid progress. Will this cause many humans to be merely the paid idle? Musk didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Tesla CEO understands the dangers of an AI that is simply smarter and more powerful than humans. He's one of the financial contributors to OpenAI, a research company that's trying to ensure that we always stay in control of our fate.

But if we become these Toyota Priuses of human-robotic circuitry, what will be left of our (human) selves?

Won't we choose efficiency over feelings, productivity over joy and HAL over Prince Harry?

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