We may be on the verge of a deeper connection with our computers. What used to be mere science fiction has become the very stuff of today’s news, with Elon Musk on the headlines.
Elon Musk is an engineer, industrial designer, and entrepreneur who founded SpaceX, an aerospace manufacturing company which just recently launched a satellite off into space, thereby upgrading (in the long run) the accuracy of GPS navigation. Musk also co-founded what is now known as Paypal, Tesla Motors, Zip2 Corporation, and The Boring Company. He is also known for inventing Hyperloop, a concept for a faster and better form of transportation that can withstand varying weather conditions and run on renewable energy.
While actively involved with SpaceX and Tesla, Musk has taken a keen interest in artificial intelligence and became co-chair of research company OpenAI, an “AI development and deployment company with the mission to ensure that artificial general intelligence benefits all of humanity,” its website states. He soon after also co-founded Neuralink, a neurotechnology company that is making advances in brain-machine interface.
Neuralink’s initial goal is to connect neural implants wirelessly with a computer device, enabling people who have lost motor functions to control their phone or computer. Its long-term goal, however, is far more incredible than that. The company is developing neural implants that may restore sensory and motor functions in individuals who are paralyzed or suffering from brain disorders. But, again, it does not stop there. Neuralink aims to merge the human mind with artificial intelligence by creating a “tertiary level” in the brain where this link can take place.
To realize this, Neuralink is advancing an invasive brain-machine interface where a robot built by the company itself will insert a minute chip measuring an estimated 4mm by 4mm into the human brain. This implant will then stimulate neurons through the tiny electrodes contained in the chip, creating a “symbiosis with artificial intelligence”. This is a procedure that Musk likens to a LASIK surgery and which he claims will be painless and safe.
The procedure has so far been tested on rats. and, already, Neuralink is aiming at making the transition to humans. But the leap from animal to human testing is an enormous one. And processes to acquire FDA approval for the conducting of these clinical trials have barely begun.
Contrary to Musk’s claims about the safety of the procedure, however, Philipp Heiler, founder of Neuroboost and Neurofeedback, said that procedures such as this involve tremendous risks including brain damage.
As may be expected, there is an ongoing debate as regards the safety and implications of Neuralink’s technology.
“Unless it’s all clear, it’s simply not possible to upload knowledge somewhere else then upload it back to the brain,” said Thomas Stieglitz of the University of Freiburg.
As regards his own concerns over the possibilities that this technology opens up, Musk himself has been recorded to have expressed on several occasions some fear on what brain-machine interface can do, and how artificial intelligence may somehow surpass humans. But as a means of resolving this concern, Musk said, “We can effectively have the option of merging with AI.” Also, he said, “After solving a bunch of brain-related diseases, there is the mitigation of the existential threat of AI. That is the point of it.”
However, Musk claims that while Neuralink is making significant progress, the very complex nature of the technology is itself its biggest hindrance. Musk himself says it will take a long time, perhaps decades, to realize. We will not be “tak[ing] over people’s brains” just yet, Musk said.
Create your free account to unlock your custom reading experience.