Neuralink: Elon Musk: “we have the technology we can rebuild you”
The world’s richest man and an internet sensation now claims he may help the tetraplegic walk again!
By Debbie Peck and Bruce Spencer
Following the success of his co-creation Paypal, then becoming the CEO of both Tesla’s and the inaccurately named Boring Co, as well as famously his $44 billion bid for Twitter, Elon Musk has also founded SpaceX which is seeking to terraform Mars, send people there and have us all visit space. Given this apparently visionary status his Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency investments are carefully watched and mimicked by his attentive followers, some say he is among the most influential figures on the planet.
A less well known company that Elon is working with at the moment is Neuralink. He co-founded this company back in 2016. It is a project designed to allow humans to actually interface with a computer via a chip that will be implanted into the brain. https://neuralink.com/
Recent video footage broadcasted by Neuralink shows a Macaque monkey playing the video game Pong using only brain wave patterns detected by the chip from the monkey. Those waves were deciphered and translated into moves in the game. Another shows a pig being touched on the snout and its neurone responses being shown on a computer monitor in real-time.
There are 86 billion neurones in the brain. Neurones send and receive information. Neurones come in various types but they usually comprise of three distinct parts: a dendrite which receives a signal, a cell called a soma which processes the signal, and an axon which sends a signal. The connection between dendrites and axons are called synapses. With the Neuralink chip they put electrodes near neurones in order to detect activity. Using many previous recordings of large quantities of neurones enables them to decode the information represented by these cells. Neurones are the brain, they are the data transmitters and processors, it is them that allow us to think, see, feel, taste and touch.
The initial goal of the technology is to help disabled people become more independent. The technology would enable a person to directly interface with their computers, devices and smart phones allowing control of devices via bluetooth technology. One would be able to compose and send an email or document using only their thoughts and even decipher their brainwave patterns into audible results for other people to hear as speech for people who cannot talk. Elon Musk said this year he was “cautiously optimistic” that the implants could allow tetraplegic people to walk. It is also aimed at potentially curing neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Disease and Dementia.
Apparently, the ‘operation’ to implant the Neuralink chip is not invasive. The chip is 8mm in length and does not require a surgeon. Implanting the chip does not require anaesthesia and does not require an overnight stay at the hospital. In order to achieve this the company have built a robotic device to implant the chip as it is almost impossible to achieve the precision needed to deliver over 1000 micron-scale threads attached to the chip to the locations they need to be in the brain, in order to pick up the required neural activity. Neuralink is developing an app for IOS that will enable the user to control their smartphones with thought alone.
Recently, it has been on the news that several people have come forward to be the first human subjects for the forthcoming Neuralink trials to have the controversial brain chip implanted. Some of those who have come forward are able bodied.
However, the Neuralink chip is not just designed in aiding the disabled it is also aimed at ‘enhancing’ regular people. There are claims such technology will create a ‘new elite’ who will have a distinct edge over other ‘un-chipped’ people’s abilities. It is claimed that using this technology they may be able to produce written text at 180 wpm; faster than conversational speech which is slow in comparison at around 150 wpm. As well as a chipped person being able to directly interact with AI and augmented reality.
Elon wants us to achieve symbiosis with AI. This is to allow the human race to stay at the top of the intelligence tree. AI could spell civilisation coming to an end as we know it and we must not allow computers to supersede us. Saying that, fusion between humans and computers could change us from being what we are today. Famously, Steven Hawking once mentioned that AI could spell the end of the human race. Neuralink’s motto is ‘if you can’t beat them join them’. This signifies Elon’s own fears of where AI is going and how we can at least be on a par with computers using Neuralink.
The idea of science which controversially involves the use of animal subjects produces stark disagreement. Its research and development as well as the potential impacts it may have on society should this technology become mainstream are matters of highest concern especially, in humanities, education and privacy. It could be argued that people have already become in effect ‘cyborgs’ in our day-to-day life by our interactions with smart phones and RFI chips. Using this technology one could connect to a bluetooth device inside of your head, your brain having the music directly beamed into it from Spotify!
We all would like to see debilitating neurological conditions and paralysis eradicated from this world. We would hope however that it could be achieved without the need for animal experimentation.