Elon Musk has been famous for the overwhelming Tesla and his SpaceX projects. Those are just among the billionaire’s brands and investments and unbeknownst to many, Musk is also into the A.I. stuff.
Neuralink, a startup by Elon Musk, aims to be one of the biggest innovations in history. Its goal is to connect and merge the brain with computers, smartphones, and A.I. Furthermore, Musk said that implants to the brain can enable humans to exercise telepathy and motor functions of the brain to cope with injury and other damaged cells.
What is Neuralink?
For all we know, Elon Musk co-founded Neuralink together with Max Hodak who holds a biomedical engineering degree from the well-known Duke University.
In addition to that, Hodak also has co-founded two (2) other companies which are MyFit and Transcriptic which makes him a reliable individual as regards the project.
As of this moment, Neuralink was able to raise a total of $66.27 million in venture funding. This, in turn, translates a company startup value of $509.3 million.
Wasn’t this type of innovation introduced before?
Many people are unaware but this project and goal have actually been developed earlier. Back in early 2006, BrainGate, a product of Brown University, allowed a paralyzed person to control and move a computer cursor using brain and nerve implants.
Since then, a handful of research groups and experts tried to come up with different ways of executing and putting this in operations.
According to them, there are two (2) approaches researchers can do: To do it invasively, or by creating an interface with an implant that directly makes contact with the brain; or to do it non-invasively; which would usually be by electrodes placed adjacent to the skin.
As per Musk, what they want is complete touch with the brain for a more authentic feature. They plan on developing chips which have arrays which consist of 96 tiny polymer threads. Those threads will have a maximum of 32 electrodes that would be immersed in the brain.
The implant process would include a robot and a 2-millimeter incision to the skull; the threads would be less than six (6) micrometers so imagine how little that would be. Yes, it is going to be invisible to the naked eye.
Musk said that the reason for this is sticking something in your brain, whatever it is, should be very small.
If you stick something in your brain, don’t want it to be giant, you want it to be tiny.”
What benefits could this bring?
If you are wondering what these will be for, you’re not alone. However, Musk has an answer to us curious cats. As per him, these devices can be utilized by people who would want some sort of a memory boost.
Cancer patients, stroke victims, people who came from a coma, congenital defect patients, even quadriplegics, are the ones targeted by Neuralink.
Other than the fact that it will be helpful to society, Musk has deeper concerns as regards Neuralink. He said that the main goal is to create some sort of an area for the brain to be interlinked with A.I.
So, the goal is to be able to finally have a sense of how A.I. can be used for the good of everyone.
Musk said that for each brain, a total of ten (10) units can be embedded. These chips, then, will be connected to an application on a smartphone, laptop, or tablet, and will serve as some sort of a Bluetooth device that users will be able to control.
Currently, Musk said that they were able to implant chips on rats. Surprisingly, they were able to gather brain activity on these rats. So in conclusion, they’re able to determine that these could have better and more improvised effects on the brains of humans because of more activity.
The interface to the chip is wireless, so you have no wires poking out of your head. That’s very important.”
Were there negative reactions about Neuralink?
Not a lot of people were put to awe about this innovation by Neuralink. What the argument was was that people might not be comfortable enough in allowing such data to be elsewhere than the brain, of course.
Take it from the Principal Analyst at the Futurum Research Daniel Newman. He said that this could create a level of uncomfortability to society.
The idea of entrusting big enterprise with our brain data should create a certain level discomfort for society. There is no evidence that we should trust or be comfortable with moving in this direction.”
Newman is also the co-author of the book Human/Machine. So we definitely know that he is aware of what Neuralike has and what he talks about.
According to Musk and Hodak, Neuralike will most likely start around the yearend of 2020. Although they are carrying tests out now, it’s transmission and diversion to people won’t start unless all permissions and approvals have taken place.
It’s not going to be like suddenly Neuralink will have this incredible new interface and take over people’s brains. It will take a long time, and you’ll see it coming. Getting FDA approval for implantable devices of any kind is quite difficult and this will be a slow process.”
In addition to that, Frederike Kaltheuner of the Privacy International said that because of a lot of data scandals happening with giant tech firms, this idea could be put to a great risk especially since it’s already dealing with what’s inside our brains.
Gathering data from raw brain activity could put people in great risk, and could be used to influence, manipulate and exploit them. Who has access to this data? Is this data shared with third parties? People need to be in full control over their data.”
To conclude, Musk’s plans of touching and involving the brain in high-tech activity is currently in the process. Many people awe in fascination about what is to come next but a lot of critics and privacy-led people actually disregard this innovation.
What about you? What do you think about Neuralink’s plans of merging people’s brains to computers and eventually, A.I.? Would this be an effective way of helping people in dire need and in improving the way people think? Or could this drive out a whole new topic about data privacy?