Who hasn’t heard of Elon Musk yet? This billionaire of South African origin is known for his multiple technological projects that are shaking up the world of science. He evokes the idea of colonizing Mars through his aerospace company SpaceX. He developed Tesla electric cars. And more recently he announced that he wanted to buy Twitter. In his book Investigation of Elon Musk, the man who defies science (Éditions Leduc, Alisio), journalist Olivier Lascar tries to decipher the impact that these major projects could have for the planet and the future of our society, by also looking at two other less publicized projects.
Starlink: Disposable Aerospace
Since 1957 and the launch of the first Sputnik satellite, the space landscape has changed a lot. The number of functional satellites in orbit around the Earth is estimated today at 4,000. A straw next to what Elon Musk wants to do. He promotes a mega satellite constellation project, to make wifi accessible to the entire globe. “But for this to work, explains Olivier Lascar, there must be enough satellites in orbit around the Earth. Musk has made requests to launch up to 40,000.” Because these satellites will be perishable and disposable in a way. “They are made to last maybe three years. And at the end of these three years, we know that they will disappear by progressive descent into the atmosphere. In addition to a proliferation of satellites, such a constellation will cause visual pollution which risks handicapping astrophysicists.
Neuralink or telepathy between man and machine
Elon Musk considers that artificial intelligence presents a danger because it risks, according to him, dominating the human species. He therefore proposes that man controls the computer through an implant plugged directly into the brain. “This is what Elon Musk calls possible human-machine telepathycontinues Olivier Lascar. This can have absolutely extraordinary prospects. Imagine people who no longer have the use of their limbs, who are on wheelchairs, who could operate exoskeletons”, or correct the effects of Parkinson’s disease. This type of research already exists, but what Musk is mainly aiming for is the miniaturization of his implant, which would open up a huge market for him. His project called Neuralink was launched in 2016. It has already been tested on pigs and monkeys, under disputed conditions, several primates having had to be euthanized. Ultimately, Elon Musk develops a transhumanist vision. What he envisions with Neuralink, “is to download his brain, his thoughts, his memory on a hard disk, explains Olivier Lascar*. And to acquire a perception like that of Terminator or Robocop.”* A vision which, for once, still comes under science fiction.
The guest :
- Olivier Lascarengineer by training, former journalist for Sciences et Vie Junior, editor-in-chief of the digital division of Sciences et Avenir – La Recherche