One day you could have Superhuman vision, play your favourite albums in your head and download your brain to a computer or even to another body. Though this may sound like an episode of your favourite sci-fi show, Elon Musk and his team at the neural tech startup Neuralink believe that their electronic Brain-Computer interfaces could make this possible.
Over the last decade, Elon Musk has become one of the most famous men on the planet. He is Revolutionizing the Banking, Automotive, Rockets, and energy industries in a relatively short period. His reputation for disrupting established industries has elevated his status to some tech Jesus for many. With his latest venture, Neuralink, Musk appears to try to take the status to the next level.
Between running the show at Tesla and sending his Rockets into outer space, it’s surprising that Elon Musk still has time for his many ambitious side hustles. His latest bit on the site’s new relic has flown under the radar for the past few years, but it’s now captivating the world’s attention for the reason that it’s intriguing as it is scary.
Musk says that the Neuralink technology will facilitate his mission to merge humans with Artificial Intelligence and subsequently save the human race from AI. He firmly believes that artificial intelligence is the biggest threat to the human race and that advancement in its technology is a dangerous game for us all to be playing.
AI can already outperform humans at literally any mental task, from solving equations to playing chess. Still, suppose we were to unless its full potential and develop AI into a comprehensive Intelligence form. In that case, it could and would outperform humans everywhere imaginable, especially if we partner it up with Robotics Musk to see only one way of escaping the impending doom of an AI facilitated human Extinction to somehow merge our intelligence with machine intelligence without realizing it.
And that’s why Elon Musk Created Neuralink; this takes time; the goal of Neuralink is to make this connection between man and machine seamless, and the best way to do it is to merge the two using a microchip brain implant physically.
So what exactly is this first-gen brain implant Neuralink. So let’s take a look at what Nueralink is all about.
What Is Neuralink?
Simply Put, Neuralink is a technology that can help humans interact with the machines using their Brains.
Neuralink Corporation is an ambitious American neurotechnology company founded by Elon Musk and others, developing implantable Brain-machine interfaces (BMIs). The company was started in 2016 and was first publicly reported in March 2017 and has been developing this technology ever since. The company aims to upgrade the most complex organ of the human body – the human Brain.
Described as a “Fitbit in your skull with tiny wires,” Neuralink technology connects human Brains to computers through a chip smaller than a penny, with a dimension of four by four-millimeter square. The chip will be directly implanted into the brain by drilling a small hole in the skull, although this could be as simple as a LASIK procedure in the future. A robot implants the device to ensure extreme Precision.
The chip is connected to the Brain through 1,000 tiny wires that are ten times thinner than a human hair, which coincidentally is about the same thickness as a neuron. The company said these wires are flexible enough not to damage Brain tissue. This is the key because other BMI’s such as Deep Brain stimulation, which is used to treat Parkinson’s, insert much larger wires which carry more risks such as strokes.
Musk has been very clear that the Neuralink chip installation will be so more comfortable, but this is not so easy as musk says. The company’s robot would need to insert 3,072 electrodes connected to 96 thin, flexible threads into your brain. These are between four and six μm (micrometer, which is one-thousandth of a millimeter) in diameter, making them far more delicate than human hair. They are connected to a brain-to-machine chipset called N1, measuring just 23mm by 8mm. Musk says the implant that transmits neural signals is called the Link.
These things are really, really small. You really can’t manipulate them with your hand. The threads are peeled off one at a time by the robot to place into the brain… So we had to build a surgical robot… The surgery is not possible without the robot.
– Max Hodak, President of Neuralink
Elon Musk hopes to surgically implant tiny devices deep inside the skull, offering the potential to treat brain disorders and other medical problems and give us the power to interact with and control machines using our minds. The idea currently falls quite firmly in the realm of sci-fi and is either utopian or dystopian, depending on who you talk to. So, how does Neuralink work? And how does it enhance your brain?
How Does Neuralink Work?
In order to understand how Neuralink technology works, you must understand that your brain is made up of neurons 100 billion neurons. As we know, our brain sends information to different parts of your body using neurons. The neurons come together to form a large network through synapses. At these connection points, neurons talk to each other using chemical signals called neurotransmitters. Everything you see, hear, taste, smell, feel – these are just neurons firing or what’s called an action potential.
Related: What is a Heart Attack?
This reaction generates an electric field, and you can record these reactions by placing an electrode nearby. These electrodes can then sense electrical signals in your brain and translate them into an algorithm that a machine can read. This is where the Neuralink chip comes.
The wires on the cheap carry electrodes embedded into essential parts of the brain. The electrodes can decipher messages that are transmitted between neurons and record the signal produced by the action potential. The threads then relay that information back to the chip and send them to an external device worn behind the ear, where it records the impulses to evaluate the data and then stimulates its own responses.
An App controls the device, so the electrodes basically read what is happening in the brain and repair the broken circuits. The chip and wires not only read the information that the brain communicates but also inputs information back into the brain as well. Data in the prototypes has been transmitted via a wired USB-C connection, but the goal has been to create a wireless system.
The electrodes stimulate as many neurons as possible in order of magnitude greater than what’s ever been done before to increase our brain’s capabilities. A single Neuralink chip will be able to connect and communicate with 1000 different brain cells, and an individual will be able to house as many as 10 implants totalling 10,000 connections testing. This will be life-changing for people with brain disorders.
The company’s eventual goal is to further develop brain-computer interfaces to the point where one can be installed today in a doctor’s office. Let’s say you opted to go for a Neuralink procedure then; what would that look like?
How Will Neuralink Be Installed?
As mentioned before, Neuralink wants to make the installation of your brain-computer interface painless and quick as easy as LASIK surgery. To install the Neuralink, a tiny piece of skull is removed, and the Neuralink is slotted in sit flush with the skull.
This process needs to be highly precise; The Neuralink team has created a robot specifically for this process. The Neuralink robot will insert the module into your brain using a microscope and inject a size of 24 microns (one micron is one-tenth of a meter). These Neuralink needles are so small that you cannot easily see them with the naked eye. The operation would require a 2 mm incision, which would be tapered to 8 mm. After the process is complete, the skull’s exposed portion will be covered with a chipset module.
The entire installation process could take up to two hours, according to Musk, while you are under partial anesthesia during the process. Installing the device will only leave a tiny scar and include all the sensors one would accept in a smartwatch. Once installed, the device will send and receive electrical signals through your brain and use these to control machines.
Since we are talking about piercing your skull and inserting wires in your brain, there are many reservations among people. Musk has stated that the process is complex and beyond the capabilities of skilled human hands.
This is why Neuralink technology will be using its specially developed robots to perform quick and precise insertion of the device into the cortex, using a microscope. The robot is designed to ensure that the device is inserted into the brain without touching any veins or arteries. Once threads are inserted, they are attached to the link, placed on the brain’s cortical surface. Each electrode will be specifically inserted, bypassing any blood vessel.
The company said that it would operate under the Ministry of Health regulations, while the operation would have to be done to ensure that it was safe. According to the company, 10,000 electrodes can be inserted into the brain. He also said that no wires or antennas would come out of your head after the device is installed.
How Can Neuralink Be Used?
This small easy to install brain-computer interface could be used to expand humans’ capabilities, changing the way we interact with technology and treat neural and mobility issues.
The company said that the initial phase of the project would focus on helping the healthcare industry. The Neuralink team says that the main focus company is to help people with disabilities, most notably those paralyzed, move, allow those who are blind to see, treat Alzheimer’s, and cure epilepsy.
In an interview with Joe Rogan’s podcast, Elon Musk says that the device will also be able to help regain someone’s eyesight even if they have lost their optic nerve.
He said that this technology, In principle, will be able to fix anything wrong with the brain.
Musk added that Neuralink could also be used to restore memory, speech, and movement of a paralyzed person. Also, he says that the technology could enable them to regain their independence by allowing them to think of an action and see it carried out, letting them fully operate a computer, control artificial limbs, write documents or express themselves with art.
There are some potential consumer applications, too. Neuralink technology could speed up the process of writing by removing the need to tap a keyboard using your fingers, allow you to drive a car without touching the wheel, and play games or enjoy experiences by streaming them to your mind.
Even though Neuralink technology focused on treating brain injuries, that is just the company’s starting point. There will be an updated version of Neuralink, kind of like a software update for your computer where the latest version could be capable of so much more, so what are some things you could do with a new running device in the future.
Merging Humans with AI Using Neuralink Technology:
It could follow control of basic devices like a computer and other smart devices in its early stages. Down the road, Elon Musk Says that the device could be used to operate robots, cure paralysis, treat mental illness, stream music directly into the wearer’s brain and extend the range of hearing beyond normal frequencies. This will require a hardware call link to be attached to the ear’s back, directly communicating with the Neuralink to stream music.
Just like Neo in the Matrix, you would be able to download a skill into your brain; you can even possibly summon your Tesla telepathically.
Post a complete symbiosis of the tech and the human brain; it will also help humans interact with each other without the need to talk, Musk said. He didn’t specify if we would need to learn a specific language for this, but he said it would be possible.
Imagine the ability to read someone’s mind!
We’re entering the realms of AI; the possibilities are endless! Imagine, you don’t need a physical communication device like a phone or smartphone to connect with people. The idea of telepathy is not far from technology like this. The idea of telepathy is not far from technology like this.
Elon Musk says humans will be able to recall everything like a movie and play it back. We will have Superhuman memory. If you travel to a foreign country, you will be able to download a program and speak in that language. In fact, you would not need to speak at all. You could communicate with people without speaking if you both have the implant. Musk says telepathic communication could happen in as little as five to ten years, although making deadlines is not his strong suit, and he’s admitted to himself.
Musk sees Neuralink AI chips being installed along with the same lines as plastic surgery in the distant or maybe not so distant future. It will be an optional surgery that some people get down, but it won’t be absolutely mandatory.
Although he also says that if everybody around you has the brainpower of a Quantum computer, then you will probably be tempted to get the procedure down yourself, especially if you plan on competing for jobs and keeping up with conservation, the possibilities of Neuralink technology on the implant are endless, and that’s not a figure of speech, AI knowledge literally has no endpoint because it’s forever learning, working things out and becoming better all at a rate that we can’t even comprehend.
To paint a picture for you with the help of Neuralink, you will be able to do everything that your computer or smartphone can but directly through thought. If you need to answer a question, your brain will know it because it has untapped access to the internet, just like how you currently have untapped access to your knowledge.
With Neuralink technology, you will automatically know everything that you would usually need to ask without even having to pop the question, date, time, weather, geographical location, Brad Pitt’s height in inches, anything. This communication will be almost instant. It would have zero of the physical restraints that we currently have attached to speaking and typing; think of it like pinging a thought into somebody else’s Dropbox but faster. Neuralink technology essentially turns you into a living breathing Alexa but can control pretty much anything with an Internet connection, video games, Drones, cars, all powered through force.
The ultimate goal of Neuralink technology is to achieve a symbiosis with artificial intelligence. Symbiosis is a mutually beneficial relationship between two parties in the natural world.
In this context, it describes the way humans and AI can develop and evolve together. But merging with AI comes with dangers. When your computer gets hacked, that’s a problem when it comes to your brain; that’s the bigger issue.
Neuralink Current Status:
In 2020 Neuralink demonstrated the device installed in a pig. The widely anticipated demo showed that a living animal could function normally after being implanted and then removed.
Elon Musk has unveiled a pig called Gertrude with a coin-sized computer chip in her brain to demonstrate his ambitious plans to create a working brain-to-machine interface.
“It’s kind of like a Fitbit in your skull with tiny wires,” the billionaire entrepreneur said on a webcast.
Musk has announced that Neuralink technology received breakthrough device designation from the FDA in July 2020. This is a major step towards eventually mass-producing Neuralink devices.
Musk’s mission to merge humans with AI is a Pretty crazy concept to wrap your head around, but the speed and direction that Neuralink is moving make it one with a genuine possibility. In the immediate future, the technology will most likely benefit the lives of countless people. But who knows how intelligent these chips will really get.
And now, after approval from the FDA, it can change our lives in the way the internet has connected the world in the way airplanes have allowed us to travel, in the way medicine has cure disease. We may be looking at our world and now thinking that we’re lucky to live in this day and age and that two decades ago, they could not have imagined that what would be possible. Two decades from now, people will look at us and think about how far behind we wear.
Although Mask has many ambitious projects on the go, this one seems different than others. SpaceX wants to build a city on marks – changing where we will live. The boring company is building underground tunnels – changing how we travel. But, Neuralink technology is changing us. Making us, in many ways, Superhuman. So are you all ready for this, to upgrade yourself?
The future’s Gonna Be Wired.