News & Politics

How Noam Chomsky Schooled Elon Musk for His 'Neuralink' Brain-Computer Venture

"There’s no way of developing technology because we don’t understand how to proceed."

Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Collage by AlterNet

SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk launched a brain-computer linkup company called Neuralink in March, in preparation for a telepathic takeover in the next decade. But the plan was panned by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as well as its renowned emeritus professor Noam Chomsky. 

“What they’re probably doing is things like ... finding ways to detect by maybe electrical signals from the brain whether you’re planning to lift your arm. That’s within the domain of feasibility, and I know there is research going on about that,” Chomsky told Inverse in June. But “trying to find out what I’m thinking," he added. "There’s no way of developing technology because we don’t understand how to proceed.”

By the time Chomsky began teaching at MIT in 1955, a test for evaluating a machine's ability to think was already in existence. "The line has always been, 'In six months, we will have computers which will do x, y and z'," Chomsky noted during a British Academy talk in November 2014. "We [still] don't have [those]."

Neuralink would supposedly allow users to add artificial intelligence to their own bodies.

"So, basically, we [could] type as fast as we think," explained Wall Street Journal reporter Rolfe Winkler, who broke the story.

But Chomsky is doubtful. As Inverse reported:

Thoughts are particularly difficult because we don’t even have a good definition of a thought, [Chomsky] says. And since we can only prove that people think, research on thoughts has to happen in the human brain. This is incredibly difficult, because we don’t have non-invasive imaging technology that can see brain activity at anywhere near the scale of single neurons.

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Alexandra Rosenmann is an AlterNet associate editor. Follow her @alexpreditor.