One of the greatest entrepreneurs of our time, Elon Musk, has introduced his new start-up—Neuralink. The goal of Musk’s latest venture is to merge humans with artificial intelligence (A.I.) by using implantable brain-computer interfaces (BCIs).
One of the greatest entrepreneurs of our time, Elon Musk, has introduced his new start-up—Neuralink. The goal of Musk’s latest venture is to merge humans with artificial intelligence (A.I.) by using implantable brain-computer interfaces (BCIs). How neat and scary at the same time?!
The billionaire has already done an amazing job in car industry with his Tesla, Inc. He’s also the owner of Space Exploration Technologies Corp. – a.k.a SpaceX that designs space crafts. However, the ultimate goal of the company is to enable people to colonize other planets! Just when we thought that Musk’s endeavors could not be more futuristic, he announces that Neuralink is now his number one priority.
In order to understand how this implantable brain-computer interfaces work, first, we have to dig into our brains.
His Majesty—the Brain
We’ve come a long way since the first time we crawled out of the ocean. Regarding our nervous system at least.
Our brain consists of three essential parts—cerebrum, cerebellum, and brain stem.
- Brain stem is that good guy that keeps us alive. He takes care of our heart rate, breathing, coughing, swallowing, and other automatic functions. He is not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, however.
- Cerebellum coordinates our movements, balance, and posture.
- Cerebrum takes the largest portion of the skull space. It is divided into two hemispheres, and performs complicated functions such as speech, thinking, experiencing emotions, planning, problem-solving, interpreting sensory information, and much, much more. This is definitely the smartest guy in the gang, but it could not survive without his bodyguard– the brain stem, and his number one officer—cerebellum.
Cerebrum also sends information from our motor cortex to our legs, eyes, lips, tongue, hands, etc. about when and how to move. Think about the motor cortex as a remote control that allows the brain to move our muscles.
Now, imagine having a chip in your head that would do something similar – collect your thoughts and turn them into action. For example, you would be able to call your mom without even touching the phone or turn on the oven while you’re lying in your bed.
For this to become reality, Musk’s team will have to develop a technology that will enable selecting the right impulses in our neurons (thoughts) and then turn these into action (the output), and also to find a way to stimulate our brain (the input).
What about Artificial Intelligence?
Does the mechanism from the previous paragraph sound familiar? We actually already have something similar. Artificial eye, cochlear implant and robotic limbs all operate on the same principle. Not to mention the Brazilian engineer Miguel Nicolelis who designed the exoskeleton for a paralyzed man.
You’ve probably heard of Sophia, the first robot with citizenship. She made several public appearances and gave many interviews, with somewhat controversial statements (to say the least) – like when she said that she would like to have a baby and that she’d like to destroy humanity.
Keeping in mind how far we’ve come regarding artificial intelligence, Neuralink doesn’t seem quite so science-fictiony anymore, does it?
The Purpose, the Ultimate Goal of Neuralink Project?
The primary purpose of Neuralink, according to Musk, is for now just to intensify input and output of the brain and help in treatment of some brain diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, as well as some brain injuries.
The billionaire is also concerned about robots turning against us and claims that these brain implants will allow us more control over machines.
What else can BCIs do for us?
Well, they can improve our memory (storage space to be precise) and ability to process information. Also, we could be able to control our devices with our thoughts.
The question is whether we are ready for this type of technology at this point or not. In other words, are we mature enough to handle so much power and use it for good, or will we become Borg-like creatures?
The Bottom Line
Keeping in mind that many of Musk’s ideas have come to life even though we thought they were impossible, there is no reason to believe that Neuralink will end up in a drawer. Say what you will, but Musk’s dreams tend to come true! And, in my mind at least, there’s zero doubt he will find a way to bring this idea to life as well.
Another important thought comes to mind—is this the next step in human evolution? Are we one step closer to immortality? Or, will Neuralink bring us a step closer to one of the scariest apocalypse scenarios imaginable?
Whichever the case, there’s a silver lining to all this – apparently Neuralink is hiring and we are all invited to apply to various positions! Now, they don’t say this explicitly, but they’ll obviously want to include an errand boy, right?! I mean, all decent companies have one! Anyway, gotta go polish my CV – I make hell of a cofe and I honestly believe the future Martians will appreciate Musk’s common sense to employ an exceptional coffee… maker… person…