Neuralink: The Secretive Human Brain Startup Backed by Elon Musk
Building rockets that will eventually take us to Mars and developing the world’s most advanced electric vehicles just wasn’t enough for eccentric billionaire Elon Musk; cue, Neuralink. Like his other ventures, this secretive company aims to introduce completely revolutionary technology, and this time, it is all about the brain.
Neuralink is in the process of developing a new brain-machine containing based “threads” which can be implanted in human brains, claiming to allow direct connection with computers. At a presentation showcasing the company’s disruptive technology, Musk describes an end goal of eventually creating a “symbiosis with artificial intelligence.” While this is indeed far off in the future, he declared the company’s first prototype could be implanted in a person by the end of 2020.
For now, Neuralink aims to use this technology for medical purposes, including giving paralyzed patients the ability to control phones or computers. The breakthrough technology involved in Neuralink is the highly flexible “threads” which are less likely to damage the brain than the material used for existing brain-machine interfaces. Neuralink co-founder and president Max Hodak believes it can also find application in helping reverse vision, hearing, and other sensory deficiencies.
Musk says that Neuralink is seeking federal approval for implanted neural devices, a certification that is extremely difficult to achieve for such technology. But testing on animals is already underway, with Musk saying “a monkey has been able to control the computer with his brain.”
“It’s not going to be suddenly Neuralink will have this neural lace and start taking over people’s brains,” Musk says assuredly. This kind of technology has been around for some time now, but the fact that Neuralink has discovered a way to implement such a risky device in a non-invasive way is a huge advancement.
Musk has been outspoken about his warnings of a future where artificial intelligence spells out the eventual downfall of the human race. With Neuralink, he hopes that it will be a stepping stone in order for us to evolve toward “well-aligned future” with artificial intelligence. Instead of being left behind by AI, humans will be able to “merge with AI,” effectively giving us superhuman intelligence.
But until then, Neuralink continues to push forward with animal trials and hopes to begin human testing by the end of next year. With the majority of the company’s operations being bankrolled by Musk himself, it has also brought in more than $39 million for its seven investors. Raising capital is the lesser of obstacles Neuralink is faced with, as there will be a long road of regulatory hurdles required to get this technology off the ground. The idea of a “high-bandwidth interface” promising superintelligence is truly a thing out of a sci-fi film, but Neuralink is paving the way to potentially provide just that.