Elon Musk’s Neuralink: A Superhuman Cognition

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  • Neuralink would offer upgrades to the human brain that could potentially make us more competitive against AI with human-level or higher intelligence.
  • During his presentation Elon Musk reiterated the idea that Neuralink will be an important part of our future, eventually allowing us to reach symbiosis with artificial intelligence. 
  • Nevertheless, there are a lot of technical and ethical challenges ahead for Neuralink if they want to make this possible.

Neuralink is without a doubt the most outlandish project that Musk is currently working on. The ambitious start-up appears to be working on something that belongs in a science fiction movie as reported by Interesting Engineering. 

What exactly is the Neuralink?

If Neuralink accomplishes its goal, the company could end up ushering in a new age of “superhuman cognition.”

Neuralink is a company set up by Elon Musk in 2016 that is exploring the human brain and how it can be connected to a computer interface. Operating at a much smaller scale than Tesla or SpaceX, this conceptual startup aims to use this brain-machine interface to integrate humans with artificial intelligence by surgically implanting processors into our brains with a procedure that is said to be no more invasive than something like LASEK surgery.

Operating at a much smaller scale than Tesla or SpaceX, this conceptual startup aims to use this brain-machine interface to integrate humans with artificial intelligence by surgically implanting processors into our brains with a procedure that is said to be no more invasive than something like LASEK surgery.

Now, you are probably wondering why humans may want to do something like this?

And why does this sound like an episode of Black Mirror?

Yet, we are getting a little ahead of ourselves.

Looking to the near future 

Five years from now you are sitting comfortably in your smart home, packed brimming with the latest and greatest smart appliances.

It’s the early afternoon and you are feeling a bit tired so it is time for some coffee.

Without even getting up, using just your thoughts, you can tell your smart coffee machine to make you a cup of coffee.

Perhaps you decide to put some music on in the background and turn off the TV while you work.

To give humans these superpowers, Musk’s Neuralink will install a special gadget to create a “direct cortical interface” to upload and download thoughts.

However, in 2019 Elon Musk shared how his team plans to make Neuralink a reality and we are much closer than you think.

Wearing the Neuralink device 

In July of 2019, during a presentation in San Francisco, Mr Musk showcased what he and his team of 100 employees have been working on at Neuralink.

This design also serves a very specific purpose.

Now your next question may centre around, how exactly will the device be implanted.

Elon Musk has stated many different times that the process would be virtually painless, no different than getting LASEK surgery.

As mentioned in the Neuralink published paper, “We have also built a neurosurgical robot capable of inserting six threads (192 electrodes) per minute.

Each thread can be individually inserted into the brain with micron precision for the avoidance of surface vasculature and targeting specific brain regions.”

Have they started testing the devices? 

On rats and monkeys, the Neuralink team has already begun testing various versions of the devices. The outcomes have been outstanding. Musk and his team presented one instance of a monkey being able to control a computer using only its brain during their presentation in San Francisco. There haven’t been any human experiments, unfortunately (or luckily). Nonetheless, the team is hoping to get FDA approval and start human studies as soon as this year.

Are there any risks? 

During his presentation Elon Musk reiterated the idea that Neuralink will be an important part of our future, eventually allowing us to reach symbiosis with artificial intelligence. 

“With a high bandwidth brain-machine interface, we can go along for the ride and effectively have the option of merging with AI”, said Musk.

And as for the risks to reaching this end goal?

Musk reassured his audience that the device will be safe.

Could someone hack these devices?

Even more so, BMIs technology is not completely new and is currently used to help those with mobility disabilities.

However, this technology is still in its infinite stages, is very invasive, and is not so scalable.

Nevertheless, there are a lot of technical and ethical challenges ahead for Neuralink if they want to make this possible.

What do we do with all the collected patient N1 data?

Krittika D’Silva, an AI researcher at the Frontier Development Lab and attendee of the event summed it up perfectly for BBC news when she stated, “The technology described by NeuraLink is exciting because it is significantly less invasive than prior work in this field.”

Do you think it is worth it? 

According to Neuralink’s CEO, Max Hodak, patients suffering from quadriplegia due to spinal cord injuries would be the first to try out the Neurolink devices. Neauralink could treat those with neurological problems caused by the brain’s inability to communicate with the nerves throughout the body. Musk portrays a future in which this technology is commonplace, ushering in a new era in which humans must combine with technology to compete with artificial intelligence as a species.

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Source: Interesting Engineering

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