What is Neuralink and what is Elon Musk up to?

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Have you ever wanted to control devices using nothing but your brain power? Though that might take a second... we might be on track.


Back story: Neuralink is Elon Musk (that one alien living amongst us who happens to be the smartest* person alive)’s neurotechnology company founded in 2016. Initially, the company’s core concept was to develop a device so small that it could be inserted into your brain (yes, this is how that one Black Mirror episode goes) and it would essentially help treat brain diseases, and conduct what’s known as “transhumanism”. This, is the idea that human beings can be improved using technology (which, by now, you have to believe in).

On July 16, Elon Musk, for the first time, had a few things to say about what this very mysterious company was actually up to.

Neuralink device

Essentially, Neuralink is going to make very thin and tiny threads (1/10th the size of human hair) that can be implanted in your brain; roughly the size of a neuron. Why? Well, for starters, if you’re going to stick something in your brain, you’re better off it being something very tiny…

This system will allegedly be able to read and write an absurd amount of data – allowing very fast communication (transfer of data/ information) between humans and computers. These threads are not likely to harm your brain, and could carry as many as “3,072 electrodes per array distributed across 96 threads” (whatever that means). You know what, let me just show you.

Now, there’s a very long YouTube video you could watch on the unveiling of this company’s plans – but for those who want to stick around, let me answer a few of your million dollar questions (which you’re not paying me for). Spoiler alert: This blog aims to simplify things and the nature of this post is very technical – so I’ll try my best to do so, without boring you (or me, for that matter).

Why Neuralink?

It’s important to address brain related diseases, and that is the primary purpose of Neuralink. Finding a way to target brain issues that can occur after any sort of trauma, accident, side effect, physical injury – being able to solve all of this with something as tiny as a chip.

In the future, the company wants to merge with artificial intelligence – because though we can “comprehend” the data behind tech such as our laptops and phones, our brains are unable to process it at fast enough speeds. With Neuralink, we would (theoretically) be able to communicate at incredible speeds with computers (tech). Musk refers to this as “symbiosis with artificial intelligence”.

Why? “Even in a benign AI scenario, we will be left behind”, regardless of what happens with our bodies in the future, our minds can potentially have the ability to live on if we so choose to “merge with AI”. I know this sounds futuristic, but that’s honestly where we’re headed.

How will it “implant” this?

Neuralink robotic system that will allow insertion of threads

This system works similar to a sewing machine, and each thread would be placed near your neurons (the “building blocks” of the brain).

Would this machine drill holes in my head?

Well, that doesn’t really sound like the most convenient option. I hate injections in general; I don’t know if being smarter weighs more than my fear of needles. That being said, in the future, researchers do hope they can use lasers instead.

Does this work?

It’s obviously too early to tell – especially on humans. But in Neuralink’s research labs, there were rats connected to this system and they were reading information 15 times better than the speed and efficiency in which the human brain would and could. The early testing of this system came as a surprise to Elon Musk himself, when they found out that “a monkey has been able to control a computer with its brain”.

Though the possibilities for mankind seem vast, the initial functionality would be strictly addressing medical issues.

Bottom line? I know by 2019 we were all expecting flying cars and teleportation devices, but hey we’re getting there. Though I wouldn’t volunteer myself to try Neuralink right away (I’ve seen too many Black Mirror episodes and know how this ends) but think of the exceeding amount of benefits it could have. Think of the amount of people in the world with body paralysis being actually able to control tech once again using nothing but their brain – the one part of them they can control. If the future isn’t looking brighter, it’s definitely looking smarter.

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