Published: Thu, July 18, 2019
Markets | By Erika Turner

Elon Musk reveals brain-hacking plans

Elon Musk reveals brain-hacking plans

In a podcast with Joe Rogan in September 2018, Musk said that Neuralink will enable "superhuman cognition", and that humans are already cyborgs, except for the slow data rate in the interface - the smartphone.

To do this, robots will drill four 8mm holes into the patients' skulls and insert electric implants that will allow them to click away using nothing but their thoughts.

Neuralink has successfully used the technology on monkeys and hopes to begin testing a prototype on human subjects before the end of next year.

Neuralink released an unpublished research paper outlining the company's progress, but it wasn't peer-reviewed, as is standard for scientific breakthroughs.

Neurolink says it has designed very small "threads" - smaller than a human hair - that can be injected into the brain to detect the activity of neurons.

To recap, Neuralink is a startup set up by Musk to explore how brains and computer could interact; it all sounded like Musk was getting a bit too into cyberpunk-esque sci-fi, as not much was heard from the company for a while.

Elon Musk pulled back the curtain on his brain interface-developing Neuralink-saying the startup holds the promise of merging people with artificial intelligence-in a technology showcase aimed more at recruiting new employees to the secretive company.

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"The monkey's going to come out of the bag", Musk said, half-jokingly. Neuralink's president, Max Hodak, says each chip will last "years to decades".

Through hundreds of flexible, fiberlike neural implants, the company aims to place electrodes in the brain via a sewing machine-esque surgical robot, allowing for data transfer rates much higher than what's now possible.

Executives said their first emphasis will be to help patients with severe brain disorders, but the goal of the company is to design a miniature, wireless implant that ordinary individuals would elect to install - "something more like Lasik" eye surgery, said MacDougall - and then control it through an iPhone app.

"I think this is going to be important at a civilization-wide scale", Musk said at the event. For this, it will eventually need approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The flexibility of the Neuralink threads would be an advance, said Terry Sejnowski, the Francis Crick Professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, in La Jolla, Calif. But "anything more sophisticated than these simple input or output technologies remains purely in the realm of science fiction", the site wrote.

Matt McDougall, who serves as Neuralink's head neurosurgeon and is also affiliated with California Pacific Medical Center, had more down-to-earth expectations.

Benn Lamm, the CEO of Hypergiant, a company that uses machine learning and artificial intelligence in their products, believes that Neuralink may be solving a problem humanity may not fully understand.

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