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Limbic Resonance: Elon Musk Discusses AI with Joe Rogan

By Bbenzon @bbenzon

The conversation Joe Rogan had with Elon Musk was far ranging, starting out with pseudo-flamethrowers Musk had sold through The Boring Company and ends 25 minutes after that infamous toke with Musk: "People should be nicer to each other". I hope someone transcribes the whole thing. FWIW it currently (8:37 AM EDT, Monday 10, 2018) has 8,500,372 views and 62,472 comments on YouTube.


Here's a segment focussing on AI:

It has the single a fascinating and important bit of conversation starting at roughly 5:17. I was struck by Musk's mention of the limbic system, but then he must know something about the nervous system and think about it a lot. After all, he's got a company, Neuralink, devoted to creating a connection between brains and computers.


Elon Musk: A company is essentially a cybernetic collective of people and machines. That's what a company is. There's different levels of complexity in the ways these companies are formed. And there's sort of a collective AI in the Google sort of search, where we're all sorta' plugged in as nodes on the network, like leave on a big tree. We're all feeding this network with our questions, and answers. We're all collectively programming the AI. And Google plus all the humans that connect to it are one giant cybernetic collective. This is also true of Facebook and Twitter, and Instagram, and all these social networks. They're giant cybernetic collective.

Joe Rogan: Humans and electronics all interfacing, and constantly now, constantly connected.

EM: Yes, constantly.

JR: One of the things that I've been thinking about a lot over the last few years is that one of the things that drives a lot of people crazy is how many people are obsessed with materialism and getting the latest greatest thing, and I wonder how much of that, well a lot of that is most certainly fueling technology and innovation. And it almost seems like it's build in to us. It's like what we like and we want, that we're fueling this thing. It's constantly around us all the time. It doesn't seem possible that people're going to pump the breaks; it doesn't seem possible at this stage that we're constantly expecting the newest cell phone, the latest Tesla update, the newest MacBook Pro. Everything has to be newer and better, and that's going to lead to some incredible point. And it seems like it's build into us. Almost seems like it's an instinct. That we're working towards this, that we like it.

EM: Um huh.

JR: Our job, just like the ants build the ant hill, our job to somehow fuel this.

[c. 7:43]

EM: Yes, uh, I mean, ... some years ago, it feels like we are the biological boot loader for AI, actively, we are building it. And then we're building progressively greater intelligence, and the percentage of intelligence that is not human is increasing, and eventually we will represent a very small percentage of intelligence. But the AI isn't formed strangely by the human limbic system,* it is in large part our Id writ' large.

JR: How so?

EM: Well you mention all those things, the sort of primal drive...

JR: Um huh.

EM: All the things that we like, and hate, and fear, they're all there on the internet. They're a projection of our limbic system.

Musk looking intently, so is Rogan, who starts chuckling.

EM: It's true.

JR: No, it makes sense. Thinking of corporations and thinking of just human beings communicating on line through these social media networks as some sort of an organism that's a, it's a cyborg, it's a combination, a combination of electronics and biology.

EM: Yeah. ... The success of these is sort of a function of how much limbic resonance they're able to achieve with people. The more limbic resonance, the more engagement.

JR: Ummh...Whereas like one of the reasons why probably Instagram is more enticing than Twitter...

EM: Limbic resonance.

JR: Yeah.

*I'm not sure what Musk meant with the previous phrase, it's not quite clear and seems in partial contradiction of the phrase that follows, which is clear enough.


Compare the above remarks with these remarks from Norman Holland's "The Internet Regression" from 1996:

Talking on the Internet, people regress. It's that simple. It can be one-to-one talk on email or many-to-many talk on one of the LISTs or newsgroups. People regress, expressing sex and aggression as they never would face to face.

Think about it. Current estimates say 20 million people communicate on the Internet from most of the nations on the globe, and that number is increasing at 12% a month. And all this just grew like Topsy, with no one planning or controlling it. Here is one of the extraordinary technological achievements, one of the great human achievements, of our century. But homo sapiens reverts to primitive, childish behavior. Why?

There are three major signs or, if you will, symptoms of this regression. The one Internet primitivism that everybody talks about is "flaming," flying into a typewritten rage at some perceived slight or blunder. "Everywhere I went in the newsgroups," writes John Seabrook in The New Yorker (1994), "I found flames, and fear of flames". [...]

A second primitivism on the Internet is sexual harassment, crude invitations to people about whom one knows no more than their online signatures (which may well be "gender-benders" that hide the sex of the speaker). It happens even in professional or intellectual groups, but the "chat" groups are the worst. Women complain, according to reporter Paula Span (1994), that going into chat mode can feel like a walk past a construction site or a wrong turn down a dark street. But males are not the only offenders. Women also proposition men. [...]

The third symptom of regression--and you may not consider it a regression at all--is the extraordinary generosity you see on the Internet. The one comment you hear over and over again about online communication is the openness, the sense of sharing and, mostly, tolerance. Total strangers will give up hours of their time to send one another research data. Even goods. A lawyer, reports journalist Sylvia Rubin (1994), was moving from Boston to Washington. A fire on the van destroyed his books, and he posted a list of what he had lost on the Internet. "Every day for six months I was receiving books in the mail from people I'd never met." "People on the network," writes a user, Mitchell Golden (1994), "share information about everything from how to run their computers to how to make cheesecake. Most of the people who post are trying to be helpful, even when they disagree." Most dramatically, reports Robert Wright (1993), there are support groups on the Internet for recovering alchoholics, drug addicts, and smokers. People with suicidal tendencies tenderly share ways in which they ward off the temptation.

Another side to this openness is what one user, Kristina Ross (1994), has called "identity play." People try out new ways of being, often in very playful ways: different professions, the opposite gender, altered self-descriptions. There is a sense that `it doesn't matter,' a feeling of invulnerability.

At the same time, this openness involves heightened vulnerability.


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