When Elon Musk is not planning to create high speed transportation or colonize Mars, he’s busy thinking of ways to implant electrodes in a person’s brain. Yes, that’s right. The founder and chief executive of Tesla wants to implant electrodes into people’s brains so that when they die, their memories and consciousness would live on in the most literal sense. Enter Neuralink.
Think of it as uploading your thoughts, memories and experiences into a computer for safe keeping. We’ve seen this in movies such as Captain America, Tron, The 6th Day and even James Cameron’s blockbuster Avatar. Using what is called a neural lace technology, Musk’s end goal is to create a better interface between humans and machines rather than being limited to the current interface which are voice or touch-oriented control.
As the first step to this, Musk has already set up a company called Neuralink. It has no public presence yet but they have already hired Vanessa Tolosa who is an engineer at the Larence Livermore National Laboratory and expert in flexible electrodes. They’ve also hired Phillip Sabes, a professor at the University of California and an expert on how the brain controls movement and Timothy Gardner, a professor at Boston University who gained popularity after successfully implementing electrodes in birds in order to see how they sang.
The goal at Neuralink would be to create a device that can be implanted in the human brain. From that point onwards, it would aid humans merge with software and also keep up with the advancements in AI. These enhancements would in turn improve the memory of humans or even allow direct interfacing with devices (possibly along the line of the DNI or Direct Neural Interface as seen in Call of Duty: Black Ops 3).
Musk has hinted about Neuralink over the last few months, with the most recent being in Dubai where he told the crowd that over time it may be possible to see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence.
For medical applications for example, electrode arrays and other implants have been used to help make the effects of Parkinson’s, epilepsy, and other neurodegenerative diseases better. That being said however, the number of people who actually have complex implants placed inside their skulls number very little, and the number of people who have basic implants in their skulls number only in the tens of thousands. Why? Because it is an extremely dangerous process and only those who have tried all other methods and failed opt for this type of surgery.
That being said though, the concepts that Neuralink are working with do sound like science fiction. But then again, so do most of the things that we use these days.
In the end, Neuralink wants to change how we work with devices by linking our brains to devices we use often such as cars, mobile devices, and even smart devices we would find in our houses. Their current is most likely to develop implants that are designed to treat brain disorders like epilepsy or depression.