How would you like a future where instead of interacting with computers through your fingertips, you can communicate through your brain? And this chip can also alleviate symptoms of brain-related chronic medical conditions? This is the future envisioned by Elon Musk, the man behind Tesla and SpaceX, through Neuralink Corp. He said that the prototype could be implanted in a person by the end of 2020.
In July 2016, Musk founded Neuralink Corp. to create an "ultra-high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect humans and computers." Then in 2017, the company announced that its initial goal was to devise brain interfaces to minimize or relieve symptoms of chronic medical conditions.
In July last year, Musk announced that while it will take a long time to realize the project's ultimate goal of connecting human brains and computers, they are on track. "A monkey has been able to control the computer with his brain," he said.
The latest update for the project came in November 2019, when Musk joined MIT research scientist Lex Friedman in the latter's podcast show, Artificial Intelligence.
"I think at first [Neuralink] will solve a lot of brain-related diseases," such as Alzheimer's, autism, and schizophrenia.
"To be able to do this, you have to be able to interface with the neurons at a detail level, and you need to be able to fire the right neurons, read the right neurons and then effectively create a circuit [to] replace what's broken with silicon, [which will] end up having the same functionality."
If that process goes well, and the initial goal of using the AI chip to alleviate chronic conditions has been met, the chip could be implanted in healthy brains to create a "tertiary layer of digital super intelligence." For this process, scientists will use the brain's limbic system as the first layer and the cortex as the second layer.
This is Musk's response to the threat he sees in the rapid advance of AI, which could leave humanity in the dust.
With the help of the chip, the human brain can merge with AI, creating what he called "some symbiosis with artificial intelligence" and securing "humanity's future as a civilization relative to AI."
According to Musk, once the chip is good enough to be installed, the surgery part should be as simple as a Lasik procedure.
There is still a long way to go before this vision becomes a reality. After all, securing federal approval for implanted neural devices is difficult.
What do you think of embedding chips in human brains to manage pain? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.