James Murphy is a tech guru and a blogger from New York. James mostly writes about new technologies.
Neuralink makes the craziest sci-fi movie look like a joke.
In July 2019, Elon Musk announced that his company was developing a machine that would implant thin threads into the brain.
Apparently, monkeys and rats already got to try it. The effects? A monkey can use its mind to control a computer.
The human test is planned for 2020, so we’ll just have to wait for
it... if it ever sees the light of day.
I cannot help but hope that the first human to get the threads installed is… you guessed it: Elon himself.
Neuralink is a hot debate issue right now.
We’re not talking about AI transforming education, medicine, or any other niche. We’ve come to a higher point in its development: it’s about to transform the human mind as we know it.
Elon Musk is known for his scandalous statements. We’ve gotten used to them by now. But this particular statement still managed to surprise everyone:
“A monkey has been able to control a computer with his brain.”
Neuralink got everyone’s attention with that.
The easiest way to explain Neuralink would be this one:
“It’s a brain microchip company.”
And then, the questions begin.
What exactly is a brain microchip company? Are we talking about some chips that would track our location, record our conversations, or control
us in any way? And why do they have to be installed in our brains?
That’s scary AF!
This is the reality: the implant (microchip) contains thousands of electrodes, each of them with tiny thin threads. The function of these threads is to monitor the brain’s electrical impulses. A receiver picks up their data and translates them into actions.
Help people who’ve been in accidents and treat brain disorders
This is the main and most achievable goal in the short term. Musk explained that Neuralink’s technology can help paraplegics. With the microchips installed, they can use their thoughts to control medical devices, computers, phones, and other devices.
Createa brain-machine interface
This goal comes as a natural outcome after achieving the first one. At this point, the enhanced brain will be in direct communication with an external device.
Creating a brain-machine interface (BMI) means that the human mind will be directly connected to an external processing power.
Bring humanity closer to a symbiosis with AI
This is the sci-fi part of the story. Ultimately, people would be so connected with artificial technology that they would be able to write just by thinking. Can you imagine not having to hire an assigment writing service? Your brain’s neurons would do all the work, and you could write a paper in a matter of minutes.
This is big. But there’s a big IF that stands in the way. Will we ever get to that point? Musk believes so.
These goals may not seem realistic, but Musk isn’t a man who lacks vision and ambition. He’s been mocked for this startup. But Neuralink is already making giant steps towards a more advanced humanity.
In the summer of 2019, Musk published a reportexplaining the first steps towards a scalable high-bandwidth brain-machine interface. The report explains how the technology works, and it seems believable when you consider the facts.
The technology has already been tested on rats. Apparently, on monkeys,
Screenshot 1. Source: Neuralink
Do you see that USB-C port installed on the rat? It’s connected to electrodes into its brain, and it gets data from there. It’s a pioneering step towards an implantable BMI for people.
Elon Musk seems pretty positive about its potential. He keeps investing millions in this company, so I guess that proves his belief in it.
Is there some incredible future that we’ll live to see?
I’m trying to understand this in the simplest way possible. Neuralink’s robot will drill holes in people’s heads and install microchips in their brains. With this, paraplegics can control devices with their thoughts.
Philip Sabes, a scientist from Neuralink, put it nicely:
“Ultimately, if and when technology for spinal cord nerve or muscle stimulation gets far enough, it could be used to restore that individual’s control over their own body.”
The goal starts with electrodes reading and writing data from the brain.
The microchips could help people to restore their sense of vision and touch. However, it won’t stop there.
The electrodes are so small that they can be placed into one’s brain with no bleeding whatsoever. It’s less scary than it seems. But will the FDA approve this technique to be tested on humans?
Not likely. Even Musk admits that it’s hard to get FDA’s nods on such
a progressive idea. It will be a slow process. Neurolink will have to solve many issues before it can get to that brain-machine interface that its founder was talking about.
Is this a danger to humanity? Musk was pretty clear on that:
“With a high bandwidth brain-machine interface, I think we can go along for the ride and effectively have the option of merging with AI.”
With this technology, humans will keep pace with AI. Musk believes that AI will eventually surpass human intelligence, so we need the BMI to save ourselves.
The details about the progress in Neuralink’s technology are pretty scarce. Elon Musk gave that lengthy presentation and published the whitepaper that I mentioned above. Other than that, we don’t have much information about the company’s potential trials on humans.
We only know that for performing such experiments in the USA, Neuralink will have to get FDA’s approval first.
What do you think?
It’s a confusing concept, so most people don’t know where they stand on it. Maybe it’s because of the lack of details we’ve been receiving from Elon Musk on this project. Hopefully, that will change soon and we’ll find out more about Neuralink’s experiments.