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Jul 30, 2019

NEURALINK: Musk opens the door for the possibility of symbiosis with AI

On 16th of July, Elon Musk who is the founder of SpaceX and co-founder of Tesla has introduced Neuralink, a neurotechnology company that has been working on connecting the human brain with computer interfaces for the last two years. According to Musk, even in “a benign AI scenario” humans will be left behind but with a high bandwidth brain-machine interface technology, we can effectively have the option merging with AI. Even more exciting, in the future humans may have the option to “achieve a symbiosis with artificial intelligence”. 

Neuralink’s primary goal is to understand and cure important diseases and eventually to help secure humanity’s future by preserving and enhancing the brain. So, Neuralink aims to create a well-aligned future -the future of “superhuman intelligence”. With this technology, brain-related diseases will be possible to address and neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, OCD, epilepsy can be curable. Musk says that the operation will be “as simple and automated as Lasik (laser eye surgery).” and the patient can walk away within a few hours. The treads are remarkably tiny, about a tenth of the cross-sectional area of a human hair, and therefore the operation will be done with robots to be very precise. The device will be completely wireless and long-lasting. “The interface to the chip is wireless so you have no wires poking out of your head…It’s Bluetooth to your phone,” says Musk.

For the immediate future, Neuralink devices will only be intended for patients with serious unmet medical needs. Patients will be able to control their mobile device and they will get self-sufficient using the devices on their own. “Imagine if you’re never had arms, then suddenly you have an arm and you have to pick up a glass on the table. It’s kind of a trippy experience at the beginning.” says Max Hodak, the president of Neuralink. Four sensors will be connected via very small wires tunneled under the scalp to an inductive coil behind the ear which connects wirelessly through to the skin to a wearable device which contains a Bluetooth radio. It will be controlled through an iPhone app, the patient won’t have to go to a clinic all the time to upgrade the software.

They will gradually increase the issues that they solve until eventually, they can do a full brain-machine interference. This technology is not new, it is widely used outsidethe brain such as cochlear implants that have been used to restore hearing. Neuralink will use the same technology inthe brain and ultimately when technology evolves, it could be used to restore an individual’s control of their own body. 

According to the Neuralink team, the process will be slow because of the FDA approvals, but excitingly they are planning human trials in 2020. At the end of the presentation, Musk surprisingly revealed that a monkey was able to control a computer with its brain.