Featured Image Source: Neuralink
Neuralink is developing ‘ultra-high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect humans and computers.’ The company’s founder Elon Musk, envisions a future where the Neuralink brain-chip can solve many brain-related issues, including returning limb functionality to paralyzed individuals, as well as restoring hearing and eyesight. Since 2016, the company has been developing a chip featuring ultra-thin electrodes that are inserted into the brain to stimulate neurons, nerve cells. Musk recently shared that besides restoring hearing loss, the Neuralink device will “also extend range of hearing beyond normal frequencies and amplitudes,” he wrote. When a Twitter user asked if the Neuralink chip would give access to stream music through the device, Musk replied, “Yes.” Suggesting that the user will be capable of 'listening' to musical frequencies coming 'directly from the chip'.
Yes. Could also extend range of hearing beyond normal frequencies and amplitudes. Deus Ex.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 30, 2020
Yes— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 19, 2020
Neuralink's current focus is treating paralyzed patients with quadriplegia due to C1-C4 spinal cord injury. The Neuralink chip is called “N1” and it is smaller than a coin. – “We would basically take out a chunk of your skill and put the Neuralink device in there... You insert the electrode threads very carefully in the brain and then you stitch it. It would interface anywhere in the brain and it could restore your eyesight and limb functionalities,” Musk explained during a podcast earlier this year. N1 features 1,024 electrodes that are as thin as a human hair. These electrode threads will be inserted into the brain with a special machine designed by the company (pictured below) – “That is just one part of the surgery. For this to scale, it must be fully automated, like LASIK,” he stated. During a 2019 presentation, the company shared its plans to implant four of the N1 chips inside the brain's cortex, one chip by the somatic sensory cortex, and three chips by the motor areas. The chips will also be wired to a battery system to behind one ear, as pictured above. Neuralink will be capable of connecting to phones and any computerized device (or machine) wirelessly.
That is just one part of the surgery. For this to scale, it must be fully automated, like LASIK.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 19, 2020
Earlier this year, Musk also said Neuralink could potentially give humans the capability to communicate without words one day, and predicted it could happen in less than a decade – “If the development continues to accelerate…then, maybe …5 to 10 years. That’s the best-case scenario…10 years, more like it.”
“If you have severe epilepsy, it could detect it in real-time and stop it from occurring. […] There is a whole list of injuries; For example, if a person has a stroke, that could also be fixed if you lose muscle control,” he said, adding that if you have Alzheimer, Neuralink will be able to help you with restoring memory. “It could, in principle, fix anything that's wrong with the brain.”
“It could, in principle, fix anything that's wrong with the brain.”
After achieving solving medical issues through the N1 chip, the engineers and neuroscientists at Neuralink aim to connect the human brain with Artificial Intelligence (AI). Musk says that Neuralink “would solve a lot of brain/spine injuries and is ultimately essential for AI symbiosis.” He believes that the only way to prevent the potential ‘take-over’ by an ‘AI overlord’, is to merge with AI – “If you can’t beat them, join them,” he says. The company will host a presentation later this month, on August 30, to talk about the brain-chip implant’s progress.
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.