The lines between art and life were seriously blurred in season four of Black Mirror, which premiered on Friday. Perhaps the most disturbing real-world connection was one that many folks might have missed unless they monitor Elon Musk’s every move as part of their profession.

Spoilers ahead of Black Mirror season 4, “Black Museum”

This season of Black Mirror culminates on a chilling note in “Black Museum,” in which a mysterious traveler named Nish (Letitia Wright) visits an unusual collection of exhibits in a roadside museum. The museum’s curator, Rolo Haynes (Douglas Hodge), explains that all the artifacts have been involved in horrible crimes. He then gives the backstories on three particularly unnerving exhibits — one of which has a personal connection for Nish.

Image: Netflix

The first part of the anthology episode is based on a short story called “The Pain Addict,” written in the 1980s by magician Penn Jillette. It’s about a doctor who uses a gadget placed on his patients’ heads so that he can feel their pain, allowing him to more accurately diagnose them. But the doctor soon becomes addicted to their agony, causing him to spiral into madness since nothing can satiate his growing need. Like most Black Mirror episodes, this ends in death and despair.

What’s weird about this doctor’s “gadget” is that Elon Musk is already trying to create one. Last spring, the SpaceX and Tesla founder announced that he would be creating yet another company called Neuralink, based on a device called a “neural lace.” It sounds like what you’d imagine the Black Mirror device would look like in real-life: a “digital layer” placed above the cortex of the brain, essentially melding the human mind with a computer.

At least that’s the idea, which is pretty ambitious and terrifying.

The device featured in the "Black Museum."

Musk first raised the idea of neural lace at a Recode conference back in 2016. In the short-term, the device could apparently be used for medical applications, which is…yeah. It’s really just like the device from Black Mirror.

The connections get even more uncanny: In 2016, Neuralink registered as a “medical research” company in California. Yikes.

“Neural lace could help humans keep apace with rapidly accelerating advancements in artificial intelligence, which Musk said will cause humanity to “be left behind by a lot,” Recode’s April Glaser reported back in May 2017. “With the help of brain implants that are directly linked to computers, humans may be able to improve their brain function, or even one day download their thoughts or upload the thinking of others.”

As early Black Mirror bingers know, that whole “downloading their thoughts” idea might not pan out well. Hopefully Elon Musk’s invention — if it ever comes to fruition — doesn’t lead its users down the same path.


Photos via Neflix, Netflix, Getty Images / Mark Brake

Apple’s next iPhone models are almost here, which raises an annual dilemma for consumers thinking about getting a new phone: hold on to what you got until the new slate of phones is released — likely next month — or hunt around for deals on last year’s models?

As the tech world turns its attention to the next range of devices, evidence suggests buyers could grab a discount on used models ahead of the announcement while those in the market for a new phone are likely better off waiting until after the new phones launch to take better advantage of the product cycle.

While the Serengeti National Park is home to some of the world’s most breathtaking wildlife, it’s also home to 225 hidden cameras — known as camera traps — that unobtrusively document the prides of lions and packs of hyenas traversing the Tanzanian savannah. Documenting these animals and their whereabouts is essential for monitoring the population of endangered species, preserving biodiversity, and also seeking out new phenomena or even species that have yet to be discovered. And until now it’s also been a huge pain.

Guiding someone who has no idea where they’re going through bustling city streets takes both excellent communication skills and unwavering patience. Artificial intelligence is a master of the latter, but still has a lot of room for improvement when it comes to understanding and responding to humans.

In part because it’s such a perfect storm for miscommunication, computer scientists at Facebook’s A.I. research lab actually think they can improve A.I.’s mastery of communication by having it guide a virtual tourist through New York City. They’ve dubbed this project Talk the Walk and they tell Inverse this method could be the key to teaching machines how to master the nuance of language.

Having a robotic butler hand you a steaming cup of coffee and the newspaper in the morning is something science fiction has made us yearn for and modern robotics has brought into the realm of possibility. Yet roboticists are still having trouble teaching machines how to complete tasks that even children are capable of. That’s why two researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have begun teaching a robot as if it were a five-year-old in the hopes of turning them into the taskmaster robots of the silver screen.

Elon Musk’s OpenAI published an update on Monday about its ongoing quest to build unbeatable eSports teams powered solely by A.I. By August, the venture plans to field a team of five neural networks that will be ready for global competition.

Almost a year after crushing some of Dota 2’s best players in one-on-one matchups, OpenAI is back to master team contests. In the blog post published Monday, the research company said its A.I. plays about 180 years worth of games against itself every day in preparation for The International tournament in August.