ELON MUSK’S AMBITIOUS NEURALINK PROJECT
Elon Musk has claimed in the past, that he wants to “stop the AI apocalypse”. He believes, that merging with AI via a brain-to-machine interface is enough to deal with the threat. He has recently began focusing more on his Neuralink startup which aims to build an implant which connects human brains with computers. They have already been implanting chips in rats and they are aiming for human implants within 2 years.
The first goal of Neuralink is to enable the control of mobile devices and improve the lives of people with brain damage and other disabilities. After that, Musk says: “After solving a bunch of brain-related diseases there is the mitigation of the existential threat of AI.” He expects the first human trials next year but we all know how difficult it can be to get FDA approval for these things especially when referring to an invasive procedure such as this. Elon Musk admits that it will take a long time to develop this technology.
WHAT IS NEURALINK?
Nerualink is a startup founded by Elon Musk that specializes in developing implantable brain-machine interfaces. It was first reported publicly in March 2017. Since then they have hired several high-profile neuroscientists from various universities. They claim to have received $158 million in funding ($100 million from Elon Musk’s own pocket) since they began.
A lot of their work remains secretive but they have stated that they intend to make devices to treat serious brain diseases in the short term. Long term, the goal is human enhancement to keep up with AI. Elon Musk claims he got the idea from a science fiction concept called “neural lace” which is a part of the fictional universe in The Culture, a series of novels by Iain M. Banks. Musk defines this neural lace as a “digital layer above the cortex.”
This brain-machine-interface formed by the neural lace in question would be inserted into a person’s skull, creating a structured body of electrodes that can keep track of its user’s brain functions. There is not much information available about exactly how this layer of electrodes would work but the idea is that adding synthetic neurons to your mind that can connect to what you already have will improve everything from processing speed to how well information travels throughout your brain and much more.
Humans have 2 main “layers” to their brains, the limbic system and the cortex. A Neuralink chip would add another layer in front of the cortex, which could not only allow us to wirelessly link out brains to external hardware but it has the potential to drastically improve markers of fluid intelligence such as IQ. Such claims are unsubstantiated at this time of course but the potential is there. It all depends on whether or not Musk can get this idea through the FDA.
Elon Musk discusses Neuralink during his appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience.
WILL THIS TECHNOLOGY EVER BE DEVELOPED?
As stated before Neuralink plans on having FDA approval to start human trials on people with serious brain diseases. This technology would be an absolute godsend for people like that. Which is why, even though it will take some time, they will get their human trials. The real question is, will technology like this ever be legal for use on otherwise healthy individuals for the sole purpose of increased performance? As we all know, we already have technologies that are being abused for the sake of increased performance such as PEDs and how frowned upon their use is ethically.
If these Neuralink chips were used for their intended purpose they wouldn’t be mainstream for decades since that is roughly how long it will take for AI to advance to the point where these chips would be useful in addressing the cognitive deficits between man and machine. When this technology is ready for release everyone must have access to it. If not, serious problems will ensue, such as the rich and privileged having access to a serious boost in fluid intelligence while everyone else doesn’t.
Like every other technology there is the potential for good and bad. We must hope that Elon Musk understands this.
The full Neuralink presentation with Elon Musk can be viewed below.