Neuralink could herald an era of biotechnology where humans and their computers are a symbiotic unit, but is it a good idea?
Yesterday everyone finally got their answer about Elon Musk’s hush, hush project that began in 2016, Neuralink. This ambitious brain-machine interface has many potential purposes but is posed to begin trials in 2020 to assist quadriplegics to control their phones via the a chip implanted in their brain. The technology works by having a small chip with tiny threads implanted into the brain which connects with an outside earpiece, information is then wirelessly transmitted to a phone. Neuralink is currently working on achieving FDA approval to begin its initial human trials, so far it has seen success with lab rats and monkeys.
“…a monkey has been able to control the computer with its brain.” — Musk when asked about animal testing.
The chip used in this process is called N1 and contains 1,000 channels and tiny threads that are one tenth the size of a human hair, more effective than stiff electrodes. The N1 chips are inserted by a robot surgeon and once complete they will be able to read brain signals at bandwidths that exceed our current technology. Helping quadriplegics is only one ambition of this technology, they hope to expand its capabilities to help cancer patients, stroke victims, and other congenital defects.
“This has the potential to solve several brain-related diseases. The idea is to understand and treat brain disorders, preserve and enhance your own brain and create a well-aligned future,” said Musk at the Tuesday conference.
“With a high-bandwidth brain-machine interface, we can go along for the ride. We can effectively have the option of merging with AI,” said Musk on Tuesday. While this sounds exciting it also poses plenty of risks. Questions surrounding the ethics of such tech involve privacy and exploitation. Daniel Newman, principal analyst at Futurum Research and Frederike Kaltheuner of Privacy International both spoke out against human brains connecting directly to computers. Newman spoke of the public distrusting large companies having access and control of their brain, while Kaltheneuner expressed concern about people being manipulated.
What do you think about this evolution in technology? Do you think the only way we can progress with AI is to merge with it? Or do you think this is a dangerous invention — proceed with caution. Watch the presentation and decide for yourself.
Watch Elon Musks full presentation here: