Elon Musk founded Neuralink, a neurotechnology company, intending to solve a variety of brain-related illnesses and ultimately connect humans to Artificial Intelligence. Engineers at Neuralink are actively developing a brain-machine interface (BMI) chip called ‘Link’. This chip is unique from current BMI interfaces in the medical industry; it is a coin-size chip that features 1,024 tiny electrode threads that are threaded by a surgical robot inside the brain to stimulate neurons.
During an interview with Kara Swisher, a journalist of a New York Times opinion podcast called ‘Sway’, Musk talked about Neuralink. Swisher asked him to explain what Neuralink is in the “dumbest possible way.” To which Musk responded – “So think of it like a FitBit in your skull. Or an apple watch in your skull. So, we take out a section of skull, we replace that with the chip and the inductive charger and Bluetooth antenna, and it’s really quite, almost quite literally like, a FitBit in your skull,” he said, “With tiny wires that go into your brain.”
Neuralink has not yet tested the device on humans, only on animals. The company hopes to initiate the first human trials in the years ahead. “We would start off with patients that are in the worst position. Like somebody’s a tetraplegic or has severe seizures or something like that. Because especially in the beginning it’s non-zero risk so we want the reward to be high so the reward balanced against the risk makes sense,” Musk told Swisher. “And then actually a very important thing that we’re putting a lot of effort into is being able to remove the chip. So, if you can remove the Neuralink you can put it in you can also remove the Neuralink and you can also upgrade it. So, you can put a new one in. And do so without any damage. […] Because I think it’s going to actually be important to be able to have the upgrade,” he stated, “I mean, you wouldn’t want an iPhone one stuck in your head.” Neuralink showcased a working Neuralink brain-chip inside a pigs’ brain on August 28, one of the pigs had the implant removed and her motor and brain functions were undisturbed. The other pig had a Link device implanted to the sensory area in its brain that gets signals from its snout and was acting like a normal pig, as its brain signals were recorded on a computer screen Live, video below.
Snout Boops https://t.co/ZJogq2ulvf— Neuralink (@neuralink) August 30, 2020
Musk has often talked about how Artificial Intelligence (AI) could pose a threat to the human species in the future. Neuralink aims to achieve human ‘symbiosis’ with AI, to merge both with machine before AI takes over. Swisher asked Musk – “So many years ago when we met you said AI would treat us like house cats. […] Later, when I met with you at your office, you switched it to anthills, which was your analogy that when you see an anthill you don’t kick it over, unless you’re kind of a jerk. […] Can you give a metaphor of where we are with AI right now?”
– “I was just pointing out with the anthill analogy that AI does not need to hate us to destroy us. In a sense, that if it decides that it needs to go in a particular direction and we’re in the way then it would without no hard feelings it would just roll over us. We would roll over an anthill that’s in the way of a road. You don’t hate ants. You’re just building a road. It’s a risk not a prediction,” Musk replied. “So, yeah. I think that we really need to think of intelligence as really not being uniquely confined to humans. And that the potential for intelligence in computers is far greater than in biology. Just far, far greater. There’s a great, quite a funny, essay called, I think it’s called, ‘They’re Made of Meat’. Which, like if some super-advanced civilization coming across Earth and they’re obviously all computers and they just can’t believe we’re made of meat.”
“Can’t believe it. And it’s like, well how do they talk? It’s like well, they blow air through meat flaps. And they slowly move the meat flaps and have like a meat flute that makes different tones. And then they flap the meat and then that makes sounds,” Musk said half-joking, “…Then they talk, the communication rates very, very slow. Like, it’s not terabits. It’s like, it’s only maybe a few hundred bits per second. […]” Musk hopes that Neuralink could enable humans to upload themselves to a machine – “Flap the meat and get in a robot,” he laughed. “Get out of the meat."
In his interview with @karaswisher, @elonmusk mentions an essay that sounded hilarious. I looked it up - it’s great. Aliens talking about discovering life on Earth: “They're Made out of Meat” https://t.co/0zgCAD5PBz— Alex Kruglov (@akruglov) September 28, 2020
"[…] We are already a cyborg. In the sense that you have your computers and your phones, and your apps on your phone… and your social media […]. It’s like you’re already part electronic if you think about it … In fact, when somebody dies they still have their electronic ghost is left around. You know their Instagram, Twitter, or whatever, Facebook, their emails, their website. It’s all still there. Even when their body died,” he said.
Musk explained that Neuralink will “improve the bandwidth of our communication”, how quickly we interact with the digital world and AI. “There’s also a lot of other good things that will be achieved, in that, any brain-related disease or if somebody has a severed spinal cord and can’t walk. I mean, with a brain chip you could do a lot,” he stated, regarding the medical conditions Neuralink hopes to solve via the Link brain-chip implant. “You can make people walk again. You could solve extreme depression or anxiety or schizophrenia or seizures. You could give a mother back her memory so she could remember who her kids are, you know. Basically, if you live long enough, you’re going to get dementia of some kind. And you’ll want to have something to help you,” he told Swisher. You can listen to the full 45 minute podcast interview about Neuralink, Tesla, and SpaceX, in the Tweet linked below.
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.