Remember what some of our first few digital devices looked like?
Wireless telephones were the size of bricks and the concept of “texting’ was only a dream. Then came the smaller cell phones where we had buttons to press for everything. Now we operate our devices with touches, taps and gestures.
Imagine not having to use any buttons or gestures to use smartphones! Heck, imagine not even using your hands to call someone!
How amazing would that be? Or is it a little scary?
Well, we don’t have to wonder and imagine anymore, because Elon Musk just created the next revolution in the digital world. Something that could possibly completely change the way we interact with devices. Hands and fingers are likely to become obsolete in the near future. Brace yourselves for a possible smart scientific breakthrough that could change our lives forever.
After nearly two years of high-level confidentiality, Elon Musk, the legendary brain behind the electric car brand Tesla, a reusable rocket and a tunnel digging machine to name a few, has finally revealed what his latest brainchild has been; Neuralink.
The company was founded back in 2017, but Musk has been quite careful not to reveal any details, until very recently. To be specific, on the 16th of this month Elon Musk finally announced that his team at Neuralink was making progress towards joining the powers of natural and artificial intelligence in human beings.
To make it sound a little far-fetched and simpler at the same time, Musk basically intends to help people control computers and other devices with merely their thoughts.
Yes. That’s the kind of thing that we have all perhaps been joking around about, up until now. Looks like Elon Musk is about to create history yet again!
What is Neuralink?
Neuralink is basically a company based in San Francisco, that was started by Elon Musk in an attempt to create a data transmission system among human beings and computers; a Brain-Machine Interface or a BMI as it is called. Well, I think we can safely say that the project has become successful to a great extent.
The company has already demonstrated how it used tiny electrodes to record a rat’s brain activity. These electrodes were surgically implanted in to the rat beside its neurons and synapses, with surprisingly less damages than any other previous techniques used for the same.
Having achieved that, the company has applied for FDA approval now, so as to gain passes in to the human skull. And once it comes through, apparently clinical trials in human beings may start as early as next year, as per the President of the company, Max Hodak.
Neuralink was created with the basic intention of helping disabled people, by allowing them to control different devices with their minds as they are not able to move or control their body parts. Four 8 mm holes will be drilled in to the patient’s skull and certain implants will be inserted, which would give them the ability to control devices with just their thoughts. These implants come in the form of extremely thin and flexible threads or wires that are about one quarter the width of human hair and the implantation process is done with micron-level precision by a robotic system.
Further, in to the future, the company also intends to gain a bigger share in human experiences involving interactions with technology, by surpassing channels in between the two, such as hands. As per the paper submitted by Elon Musk on the same, he explains how his company’s BMIs would be much less likely to cause brain damage in the process, as it uses only superior quality materials and techniques.
According to the research paper submitted by the company on the system, as of now Neuralink has performed 19 surgeries on animals with the help of its high precision robotic systems and has been able to place the wires or threads successfully almost 87% of the time.
That certainly boosts our chances of trusting Elon Musk with his system that is possibly going to invade the human brain. The confidence level rose to a whole new level when Musk revealed that his system worked with primates as well.
Neuralink has currently raised more than around $150 million from different investors, out of which around $100 million is from Musk himself, the CEO. He says that in the future we may have people choosing to become cybernetically enhanced, even though it is not something that will be mandatory. He says that it is going to be a popular option for millions of people.
Looking at the implications of an “option” like that, it pretty much looks like an opportunity for millions of people around the world who have been dreaming of reading other people’s thoughts to use and maybe even abuse the same.
Taking it up a notch, the next level in the whole human-technology interfacing realm is likely to involve implantations within the brains of a person. However, that process comes with very high risks as well considering how the human brain is designed to reject any kind of foreign probes disturbing its conventional setting. And this resistance could lead to serious long terms risks.
At this point, it may be worthwhile to remind you of the fact that the system still awaits its FDA approval. But the likelihood of it affecting the basic thought process of human beings in more ways than one is quite scintillating and scary at the same time; one that cannot be just ignored.
It will just be a matter of time before hole-drilling in the human skull becomes all too easy and mainstream, not to mention painless. We may want to hypothecate situations right now to determine our feelings when we see patients texting or emailing their friends and family with their thoughts. Because otherwise, it might just be too late for us to just “think” in conventional ways.