Elon Musk has a trick to make the world fall behind his vision of the future

Musk the mastermind.
Musk the mastermind.
Image: Reuters/ Shannon Stapleton
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A former Google China president and now venture capitalist says Elon Musk uses shiny cars and the promise of medical implants as bait for his real goals: Distributing energy away from traditional power companies and turning humans into cyborgs.

First, says Kai-Fu Lee, were Tesla cars.

“By selling us fancy, beautiful Teslas—luxury cars that none of us can say no to, it seems to have changed to distributed energy,” Lee, the CEO of Sinovation Ventures, told Quartz in an interview today. As Tesla CEO, Musk has acquired the solar energy startup SolarCity that he previously helped lead as chairman, then he began sharing a vision where a battery in the home stores energy from the sun (preferably using SolarCity’s new solar panels). That energy will be used to power the home and charge electric cars.

That same strategy is now being applied to neural implants, Musk’s dream of creating a seamless interface between humans and computers.

“Elon is the smartest strategist I know,” Lee says. “By starting with medical implants to treat Parkinson’s, which none of us can argue…I think we’ll see the same, with implants turning us into cyborgs.”

Some of the first neural implants have been for Parkinson’s patients, where small electrical pulses have been shown to limit the tremors associated with the neurodegenerative disease. Musk’s neural implant company, Neuralink, will start using similar technology for other neurological diseases, according to the Wall Street Journal, where it can be tested in humans in the name of medical research. After that, Musk has been clear about his desire for elective neural implants, especially to curb his fear of superintelligent artificial intelligence.

“We don’t want to develop digital superintelligence too far before being able to do a merged brain-computer interface,” he told internet-famous explainer Tim Urban in a Wait But Why post. Musk says that without being able to communicate with AI at an extremely high speed, malevolent AI will surely be able to outstrip humanity’s intelligence and create dystopia.

Lee says he’ll refuse neural implants if they’re available within his lifetime, barring extreme circumstances. He holds the same prejudice against uploading his brain to a computer to live forever.

“We have to have death so our life has meaning,” he said. “I don’t want my brain downloaded. When I die I’ll just be cremated.”

Kai-Fu Lee also discussed artificial intelligence and the future of work with Quartz. Watch on Facebook Live here: