Elon Musk is widely known for attempting the improbable. His ideas are controversial and sometimes even absurd to the general public. The very long list of Musk’s bizarre projects also includes Neuralink. Neuralink is the point where artificial intelligence and the human brain meet to possibly form a very powerful tool. He’s basically aiming to create a kind of technology that can be embedded into people’s brains, which can then possibly read their minds and somehow stimulate the functioning of the brain. One of the more ambitious aspects of this project is the goal could cure people with mental disabilities. Other than that, Musk also claims that you could upload your memories to the cloud!
Musk told "Artificial Intelligence" podcast host Lex Fridman in 2019 that Neuralink was "intended to address the existential risk associated with digital superintelligence."
"We will not be able to be smarter than a digital supercomputer, so, therefore, if you cannot beat 'em, join' em," Musk added.
It may sound arduous, but trials and testing conducted by Neuralink have shown a lot of positive progress. But some experts believe that neurology is still standing on relatively shaky ground. We’ve not yet fully understood how the human brain works. Until we’ve achieved that, we should hold off on reading people’s minds.
But scientists involved with the development of Neuralink and Elon Musk himself believe that they are ready for human trials and are hoping that FDA approval arrives soon. Before moving on, let’s just understand in-depth what Neuralink entails.
What is Neuralink?
Neuralink is a brain implant that reads the electrical fields produced by our brains, further translating these fields into code, which can then be used to interface with other electrical devices.
Neuralink’s website articulates that the device will give you the ability to control any computer or mobile device anywhere in the whole world.
The implant involves a chip, a wireless charger that can charge the implant from the outside itself, and some tiny micron-scale threads linked with parts of the brain. They also have an app that would basically teach users how to interact with the device and connect them to other objects.
A robot has been designed by the company that can "reliably and efficiently insert these threads exactly where they need to be."
As the first step of his next-to-impossible project, Musk aims to help people with disabilities. He claims in the future, a disabled person with Neuralink could operate a phone faster than a non-disabled person could with their thumbs. He definitely has high aspirations!
According to Slash Gear’s article titled "The Incredible And Controversial Evolution Of Elon Musk's Neuralink,"
"So far, it has been claimed that Neuralink could help treat: memory loss, depression, anxiety, hearing loss, insomnia, addiction, blindness, extreme pain, strokes, paralysis, seizures, and brain damage."
The possibilities could be transformative.
If what Musk and Neuralink tell us turns out to be true, it will have the power to change people’s lives. Imagine controlling your phone or computer with your mind, uploading all your memories to the cloud and having the ability to replay them whenever you feel like doing so.
For a short amount of time after Elon Musk became associated with Neuralink, there have been propositions that this could be used to enhance the user’s cognitive ability. Suppose you’re giving a chemistry exam, and you don’t know the answer to a particular question, you could automatically have a reaction calculator which would calculate the final compound obtained the instant you think of the problem in your brain.
Although Neuralink’s initial focus is on merging AI with the medical field, they have openly stated that their goal is to someday manufacture "BCIs that are sufficiently safe and powerful that the general population would want to have them."
But is it all good?
The primary concern with this is the possibility of the chip being hacked and its vulnerability to malicious attacks. This would cause even greater harm to the user.
But as it is with every technology, some risks are to be expected. The thing that matters is that these risks should be minimal and not cause a drastic change in the safety and privacy people have.
Musk’s strange relationship with AI
Elon Musk has a complex relationship with artificial intelligence. Development is the basic concept around which a number of Musk’s companies and ventures revolve, including Tesla, which depends on AI for its self-driving feature.
Musk has stated numerous times that AI will one day destroy the human race and has approached several governmental institutions requesting that they limit how it is used in combat situations.
Neuralink’s relationship with artificial intelligence compares to this in some of the same ways. On the one hand, Musk claims that Neuralink will give people the ability to compete with AI as it progresses in the future. However, he also stated that by integrating their brains with complex technological systems, people will be able to interact with AI.
Successful animal tests have been performed.
The device has been successfully tested in rats, pigs, and monkeys. But of course, a company can’t truly be Elon Musk’s unless it comes under the controversial umbrella.
Animal rights group the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) claims it has obtained records showing 15 of the 23 monkeys Neuralink was tested on died during the company's tests. Furthermore, it was also stated that the monkeys endured extreme suffering during the trials. Neuralink later admitted that eight monkeys died during the course of the trial. I feel bad for them!
Goals for this year
Elon Musk has expressed interest in starting human trials and putting a Neuralink chip inside humans sometime in 2022. But it’s still waiting for the FDA approval that’s required.
Meanwhile, Neuralink’s rival, New York-based Synchron Inc., which was founded in 2012, got the go-ahead in 2021. Here’s hoping that Musk receives the approval and does something life-changing for people everywhere.
In conclusion, I would say that, like all of the different ventures led by Elon Musk, I hope that this will get the approval that it needs as quickly as possible because I’m very excited to see what these guys do in the future.
So AI in the medical field is a recent development, so it doesn't have a solid base yet, but I believe that Elon Musk could definitely take this aspect to higher levels than ever expected.
Neuralink is definitely the future of humanity if they keep moving one step at a time and are not in a rush. That can lead to catastrophic implications.
Other than that, full steam ahead towards uniting the whole world with technology that leads us into the future!
Steve Jurvetson, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons