If You Saw Computers and Phones as the Peak of 21st Century’s Technology, Let’s Talk About NeuraLink
Elon Musk has been busy.
He’s dad again for the 7th time to baby X Æ A-12 (X Ash A 12) and recently made headlines with his company Neuralink and their much-hyped brain implant that promises a myriad of miracles.
Aluxers, let’s explore more about Neuralink, the brains behind the microchip and everything in between.
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If you’re into NeuraLink because you’d like to absorb content faster, then you will definitely prefer watching a video on this topic over reading the article:
With this done, let’s look at the first thing you didn’t know about this futuristic project.
What Is It and What Can It Do?
Neuralink is a neurotechnology company that was founded in 2016 by Elon Musk. Based in San Fran, their goal was and is to develop implantable brain-machine interfaces.
The thought process behind this concept was that the brain could be interpreted and manipulated in real-time using technology.
The device is a micro-computer chip that is implanted into the brain on a network of thousands of ultrathin electrode wires. These wires pick up the signals that the brain emits and translates them into motor controls.
Initially, the person would be able to control a smart phone by simply using their minds, but the long-term goal is much bigger than just operating a mobile phone, as we’re about to find out!
Neuralink’s Brain Chip Is Envisioned to Cure Anything
It hardly seems worth having your brain drilled open just to operate or replace your mobile phone. So, what else can this brain chip achieve?
Here’s what Neuralink is said to be able to “cure.”
- Memory loss
- Brain Damage
- Hearing Loss
- Extreme Pain
The Neuralink technology goes beyond that. With time, we could all be superhuman! Our vision would be incredible, we’d have telepathic powers and we could even listen to music right inside our heads.
Humans would be able to communicate with each other without uttering a word and communication would be lightning fast.
All sounds good on paper, but let’s reverse back to the drilling into the brain bit.
While new technologies are always fancy and all, what has always worked for mental health is the Best Brain Food.
It’s Suggested That the Neuralink Brain Chip Can Destroy Surrounding Cells When Implanted
Some scientists believe that during the implantation process, surrounding cells could be destroyed. Cognitive Psychologist, Susan Schneider, feels it’s not the best idea to go about inserting technology into our brains.
In an op-ed for the Financial Times, she argued that it could be “suicide for the human mind,” and that, “The worry with a general merger with AI, in the more radical sense that Musk envisions, is the human brain is diminished or destroyed.”
Many agree with her.
If there were no concerns about the actual insertion of the micro-chip – could humans be smarter than robots?
Let’s find out.
The Chip Could Make Us Smarter Than Robots
Stephen Hawking once said, “AI is likely to be either the best or worst thing to happen to humanity.” Where would you slot the Neuralink microchip into, Aluxers? Best or worst thing to happen?
There is speculation that the Neuralink microchip could make humans smarter or at least equal to robots – which many are applauding, especially with the fear that robots will eventually take over our jobs. We’re seeing it in so many industries – even voice-over artists! Don’t worry Aluxers, I’m not going anywhere!
Let’s lean on Musk’s own thoughts about this. He voiced concerns in 2016 that humans could end up as house pets to AI unless we managed to connect our brains to computers. He continues to add that Neuralink would allow humans to compete with AI! As he continues, “Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence.”
The Neuralink Chip Gives Us Much to Think About
Aluxers, can you imagine somebody being able to read your thoughts? A crazy concept, right? This micro-chip is believed to be able to transmit our thoughts from one user to another.
In August 2020, Musk showed off the new technology and while doing so, touched on the idea of “consensual telepathy,” which means that two people could communicate via their thoughts.
Fortunately, it doesn’t mean that everyone has free access to your thought process, but with hackers around, it’s only a matter of time before that’s a possibility!
If you’re filling your brain with only good thoughts and educational material, then you’ll have no problem – and here’s how you can retain all that educational material.
With Time, You Could Recall a Story With 100% Accuracy
Imagine being able to read an article or study for an exam, and be able to remember everything you read? With the Neuralink microchip, that dream could turn into reality. The microchip could make humans super-smart, and one of the pros is having an excellent memory. However, the downside to that, is that it might be difficult to switch your brain off!
Another factor to consider, tech can malfunction. It can experience wear and tear and it can simply not work. So, Aluxers, if you want the good, like anything, you need to accept the bad too.
Yann LeCun Professor, New York University, says, “Our intelligence is what makes us human, and AI is an extension of that quality.”
Coming up – what do 3 little pigs and Neuralink have in common?
Musk Has Underestimated the Length of Time It Would Take to Really Work
In true Musk style, crowds have been razzle-dazzled with this exciting new concept. Neuralink are hoping to begin trials by the end of 2020 and promised a working demo by that stage.
That being said, it’s still going to be a lengthy process. Safety, efficacy, and years of testing will need to take place as there is no room for errors.
Scientists believe that Musk is completely underestimating the time it’s going to take to get this off the ground. Words like “fantasy land,” and “science fiction” have been thrown around.
They’ve probably never heard the wise words of Nelson Mandela when he said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
Musk Didn’t Create This Technology Alone – He Had a Highly Intelligent Team Behind Him.
Elon Musk, current CEO, founded Neuralink alongside Ben Rapoport, Dongjin Seo, Max Hodak, Paul Merolla, Philip Sabes, Tim Gardner, Tim Hanson, and Vanessa Tolosa.
Here’s a small bit about them:
Paul Merolla – Has worked on more than 10 brain-inspired chips. These included Stanford’s Neurogrid and IBM’s TrueNorth chip.
Vanessa Tolosa – Neuralink’s microfabrication expert and one of the world’s best researchers on biocompatible materials.
Max Hodak – Founder of Transcriptic and current President of Neuralink.
DJ SEO – Created a new BMI concept known as neural dust. These are tiny ultra-sound sensors that can record brain activity.
Ben Rapoport – A top neurosurgeon and Neuralink’s surgery expert.
Tim Hanson – Developed some of the core technology used at Neuralink.
Philip “Flip” Sabes – Neuralink’s senior scientist
Tim Gardner – Was a leading researcher at BU before joining Neuralink.
With a highly skilled and intelligent team behind Neuralink’s micro-chip, it does give hope and provide vision for what could be a great concept – if used correctly. But what about the ethical dilemma of the brain chip?
Ethical Dilemmas, Security, Privacy, Political and Legal Issues All Crop Up
Aluxers, there is a huge fear about this kind of technology. Many states in the US have issues laws stating that it is not compulsory to have any form of microchip inserted into the body. Michigan, for example, has an official bill stating that employers may not force their staff to accept microchip implants of any kind.
Where does that leave the Neuralink microchip?
Brain technology has the potential to change collective behaviour. It can convert an entire group of thinking to another, disrupt social norms and create madness and mayhem.
Brain hacking or mind-jacking could happen, and we could find our thought process being controlled by an unknown. Could the chip alter our personality? Could it change our values and our beliefs? Could other disorders begin because of the new addition to our brain and could there be a psychological impact of the actual surgery to implant the chip?
Who owns the microchip? Sure, you do if you’ve paid for it – but what about the data? Who is allowed access to the inside of your brain? Where does the data go when you die?
There are so many unanswered questions. Questions that need clarity before anyone will volunteer to have a chip inserted into their skulls!
Start-up Costs and Who Is Investing
It was a strange start for Neuralink when Rolfe Winkler tweeted, “Funding round is still open. They likely won’t have issues raising the full $100m if they decide they want it all.”
Musk left a terse reply stating, “Neuralink is not raising money.”
It appeared that Rolfe Winkler, technology reporter in the Journal’s San Francisco bureau, had lifted the lid about Neuralink before Musk did and there may have been some resentment on Musk’s part.
There are reports claiming that 12 investors have backed Neuralink, including six un-accredited investors.
Currently, you are unable to buy stock but in time you would be able to purchase shares which would probably cost in the region of $5 to 10 per share.
The equipment is where the big money is spent, with the ‘sewing robot’ – the machine that will install the chip – costing between $10 ad $20 million, but over time that cost has reduced to $500,000.
Let’s have a closer look at this “sewing” machine…
The Chip Would Be Inserted With Something Similar to a Sewing Machine
In its most basic form, the microchip is installed by drilling a hole into the skull and inserting the chip and hooking up the wires.
It’s a high-risk surgery and even Musk admits that the procedure is complex and not suited for human hands.
This robot will create a 2mm incision which will be stretched to 8mm. The microchip – also called the LINK, is then inserted using a microscope and needles so small, you can barely see them. The robot is specifically designed to not touch any veins or arteries and the whole process should not take more than 2-hours under partial anaesthesia.
The surgery is said to be “As safe and painless” as laser eye surgery and the device is inductively charged.
The three little pigs – Joyce, Dorothy and Gertrude
Elon Musk said, “When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.” He’s got more valuable lessons for us to learn and you can see them on our video, 15 Business Lessons from Elon Musk.
Musk might have realized that the odds may not be in his favour, but he didn’t let that stop him and his team from inserting a microchip into a pig and demonstrating how far the chip has already come!
When Musk showed off his company for the first time in August 2020 – he brought out the pigs. Joyce had no device. Gertrude had one that monitored neurons in her snout, Dorothy had one put in and removed.
Dorothy behaved like a normal, happy pig – no problems. Great for humans if they want to take theirs out or upgrade. Gertrude walked on a treadmill and her limb functions and brain activity were all captured by the LINK. The team said there was great consistency between the predicted and actual outputs.
Things of this nature will always have challenges, let’s see what Neuralink will be faced with.
Challenges That Neuralink Must Overcome
One of the biggest challenges that Neuralink will face is to develop materials that are safe to insert into a human brain, without causing infections or deteriorating.
The tiny chips need to read data quickly and have a high resolution so it’s easy to decipher.
We already mentioned some of the ethical and moral issues earlier, but Neuralink will also need to fix problems in-house.
Former employees have spoken out about a chaotic work culture, tight deadlines, and pressure to get results despite research being understandably slow.
Cost of the Microchip
Aluxers, like any new development, the initial costs are always high. When interviewed about the price of a microchip, Musk was vague and reiterated our initial sentiment. He felt that initially it could cost a few thousand dollars which would include surgery.
In time, he hoped that the price would be on a par with lasers or device electronics.
Have you ever wished you could relive a memory? Or maybe you’re certain you asked your partner to do something and they deny it, and you know for a fact you did.
With the LINK, you would be able to reply memories! Musk said, “We can save and replay memories. The future is going to be weird.”
Which leads us to our questions Aluxers…
Would you store and reply memories if you could? And would you ever consider getting a microchip put into your brain? Let us know!