Neuralink, a brain-computer interface got an interest of the SpaceX and Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, says The Wall Street Journal. The idea of this company that is still in the earliest stages of its existence is to create devices that can be implemented in the human brain, and help humans merge with software, in order to keep pace with advancements in artificial intelligence. The enhancements in question include things like memory improvement and more direct way of interfacing with computers and other similar devices.
Musk mentioned the existence of Neuralink several times in the last six months, and has recently stated that “Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence.” He responded to several tweets about the brain-computer interface, or the so-called “neural lace”. He believes that this new kind of technology could be used by humans in order to improve themselves.
@BelovedRevol Making progress. Maybe something to announce in a few months. Have played all prior Deus Ex. Not this one yet.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 28, 2016
Since the brain operations are incredibly complex and dangerous, not a great many people choose to undergo such surgeries and take the risk of something going wrong. Even though there are several brain implants, like electrode arrays that have been implemented and used for the medical purposes, what Musk is hoping to achieve is still considered science fiction, even to this day.
Still, many of the tech industry futurists are intrigued by this and similar ideas, and they’ve shown open interest in accelerating the advancements of this kind of projects. Bryan Johnson, a co-founder of Braintree, has created Kernel, a startup that is also trying to find a way to enhance human cognition. For now, funded by Johnson’s own money, they are working toward reversing the effects of neurodegenerative diseases. Their goal is to make our brains faster and smarter, and their team of neuroscientists and software engineers keeps on growing.
During his last year’s interview with The Verge, Johnson stated that we know that if we put a chip in the brain, we can release electrical signals that can help deal with many diseases such as Parkinson’s, obesity, anorexia and others. He stated that that kind of operations has already been done. “What hasn’t been done is the reading and writing of neural code,” he says.
Kernel openly states that it will take years of brain research in order for us to understand it enough to even try an operation like this. It is their hope that with an understanding of the brain, and improving surgery techniques, software methods, and implant devices the brain-computer interface can become a reality. And with the Neuralink being founded as a medical research company last July, it seems like Musk will follow the similar route as Johnson in his pursuit of this concept.
The idea of this is getting more and more popular with every passing year, and with our limited understanding of the brain and how it exactly works, there’s no telling what can be achieved or discovered now that this kind research has been encouraged. And of course, there’s also the idea of people volunteering to have electronics placed in their heads.
Blake Richards, a neuroscientist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto says that “People are only going to be amenable to the idea [of an implant] if they have a very serious medical condition they might get help with,” and that healthy people don’t exactly feel comfortable with the idea of doctors opening their skulls.