Um, there is some truth to this.

Rats to Cats

Elon Musk tweeted a fascinating — and frankly unsettling — theory last night about how a brain parasite might be forcing all humans to create advanced AI.

The Tesla CEO was responding to a story from National Geographic about how toxoplasmosis, a common parasite often found in cats, seems to be causing hyenas to be reckless around predators such as lions. In a staggering and perhaps facetious leap of logic, Musk suggested that the parasite is actually what’s causing humans to create advanced artificial intelligence. 

“Toxoplasmosis infects rats, then cats, then humans who make cat videos,” Musk tweeted on Friday. “AI trains achieves superhuman intelligence training on Internet cat videos, thus making toxoplasmosis the true arbiter of our destiny.”

Is It True?

At first blush, this might seem like just another meme tweet we’ve come to know, love, and hate from the billionaire SpaceX founder… but there’s a nugget of truth to it.

Toxoplasmosis is a single-celled parasite that typically infects rats and mice. The parasite, scientists believe, affects the minds of rodents and causes them to lose their fear in predators such as cats and humans. These newly brave rats will approach cats, get eaten, and pass on the parasite to the cats who then pass it on to people — a symbiotic relationship with cats, essentially.

But does it affect humans as well? Maybe. Studies have suggested that people who test positive for toxoplasmosis can exhibit more risk-taking behavior, according to LiveScience

In fact, a study looking at almost 600 people in the Czech Republic and 370 people in Turkey found that those who tested positive for toxoplasmosis were, overall, more likely to experience a car crash. 

Toxic Mind Control

At the end of the day though, it’s incredibly unlikely that a brain parasite is causing humans to create superhuman AI. For one, not everyone has a cat. Also, there’s no evidence that toxoplasmosis makes us want to create advanced computer science projects. 

But it might cause us to take more risky behavior like, oh, I don’t know: investing billions into an electric car company, or attempting to colonize Mars, or trying to control the entire cryptocurrency market by sending off meme tweets

Or to make outrageous jokes about parasites on Twitter.

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