Have you ever wished you could get a microchip embedded in your brain that would gift you the ability to effortlessly converse in foreign languages when you travel? Globetrender has. And so has Elon Musk, who is taking it upon himself to design a Neuralink implant that would act as an interface between humans and computers.
Musk’s secretive Neuralink brain start-up is setting out to raise US$51 million (so far it has US$39 million in the bank) to fund research and development into a brain implant that would connect humans with computers. In 2016, Neuralink was registered as a Californian medical research company – since then, it has has operated discreetly out of San Francisco.
Although the project is controversial, steps are already being taken to take us into the future. Rather cruel-sounding experiments are being conducted on rats in which electrodes are being implanted into their brains in a technique known as the “sewing machine method”. A paper outlining the findings was published in March 2019.
It states: “As an initial demonstration of this system, we implanted arrays of electrodes in rat somatosensory cortex, recorded extracellular action potentials from them, and obtained histological images of the tissue response. This approach points the way toward a new generation of scaleable, stable, and safe neural interfaces, both for the basic scientific study of brain function and for clinical applications.”
What would be the benefits of Neuralink?
Back in 2017, Musk said in an interview with waitbutwhy.com that he hoped that Neuralink could be used to treat severe brain injuries related to strokes, cancer lesions and congenital abnormalities by as early as 2021. Even more extraordinary, Musk says it could even be used to engender telepathy between people.
He said: “If I were to communicate a concept to you, you would essentially engage in consensual telepathy. You wouldn’t need to verbalise unless you want to add a little flair to the conversation or something, but the conversation would be conceptual interaction on a level that’s difficult to conceive of right now.”
With artificial intelligence developing exponentially, it will only be a matter of years until AI overtakes humans (this is known as the Singularity) but by becoming cyborgian ourselves, with the help of brain implants, we will have a chance of retaining our edge. Not only will we enjoy the unique creative abilities associated with being human, but the infinite knowledge and computing power of machines.
However, before he died, professor Stephen Hawking shared his grave concerns about artificial intelligence. He said: “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race… It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate… Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.”
What next for Neuralink?
Not to be deterred, Musk is hiring. His website says: “Neuralink is developing ultra high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect humans and computers. We are looking for exceptional engineers and scientists.
“No neuroscience experience is required: talent and drive matter far more. We expect most of our team to come from other areas and industries. We are primarily looking for evidence of exceptional ability and a track record of building things that work.”
On Twitter, when asked for a progress update in April, he said he would probably be able to give one ” in a few months”.
Elon Musk is also working on sending people into space with Space X, as well as constructing high-speed tunnels under LA known as the Loop, which would whizz cars around the city at 150 mph on drive-on/off “skates”.