Elon Musk, a founder of SpaceX and Tesla, is starting a new venture called Neuralink. Reportedly, the company that doesn’t even have public presence so far will focus on the development of smart devices that will help people merge with software and keep pace with advancements in artificial intelligence. The devices will be implanted in the human brain to improve memory or allow for more direct interfacing with computing devices.
There have been hints pointing to the existence of Neuralink a few times for the last six months. Not long ago, Musk told a crowd in Dubai, “Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence.” He added that “it’s mostly about the bandwidth, the speed of the connection between your brain and the digital version of yourself, particularly output.”
When asked about his progress on a so-called “neural lace” on Twitter, Musk gave a promising response:
@BelovedRevol Maybe next month
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 25, 2017
Now, it may sound rather fantastic as electrode arrays and other implants have mostly been used to help improve the effects of Parkinson’s, epilepsy, and other neurodegenerative diseases. There are few people who live with complex implants placed inside their skulls and perhaps only tens of thousands of those who have very basic stimulating devices. The reason is very clear – surgeries on human brain are extremely dangerous and only those who have exhausted every other medical option choose to undergo such surgery as a last resort.
The task complexity doesn’t stop interest from tech industry futurists who strive to accelerate the advancement of these types of far-off ideas.
Along with Neuralink, there is one more startup that is trying to enhance human cognition – it is Kernel, a company created by Braintree co-founder Bryan Johnson. In 2013, Johnson had sold Braintree to PayPal for around $800 million and invested more than $100 million in Kernel. Neuroscientists and software engineers are cooperating to reverse the effects of neurodegenerative diseases and make our brains faster and smarter and more wired. The aim of Kernel is to start working with the brain the same way we work with other complex biological systems like biology and genetics.
“We know if we put a chip in the brain and release electrical signals, that we can ameliorate symptoms of Parkinson’s,” Johnson said. “This has been done for spinal cord pain, obesity, anorexia… what hasn’t been done is the reading and writing of neural code.”
To be honest, the goal to create implanted devices is too challenging. Neuroscience researchers state that we have very limited understanding about how the neurons in the human brain communicate, and our methods for collecting data on those neurons are elementary. Besides, it will be hard to find people who will voluntarily allow placing electronics inside their heads.
“People are only going to be amenable to the idea [of an implant] if they have a very serious medical condition they might get help with,” Blake Richards, a neuroscientist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto, said. “Most healthy individuals are uncomfortable with the idea of having a doctor crack open their skull.”Конец формы
But it is not the first time that Elon Musk gets down to big ideas. Both SpaceX and Tesla were started with near-term products and ended with such great projects as landing on Mars or affordable, mass-produced long-range EVs.