Everything Elon Musk does get media attention, but there is one project that has managed to hover under the radar for some time. Behind Tesla and SpaceX lies Musk’s startup called Neuralink that now wants to put electrodes in human brains.
What is Neuralink?
Neuralink is Musk’s company that intends to create a data transmission system that bridges the gap between man and machine. The company was formed in 2017 and has been relatively secretive about its work till date. However, in its very first demonstration, it showed reporters that it could record the brain activity of a rat using thousands of microelectrodes placed inside its brain. The electrodes are carefully implanted along the synapses and neurons of the rodent, that helps it achieve the breakthrough.
Now, the company wants to repeat the same experiments on humans. It is seeking US FDA’s approval to start human clinical trials next year. President Max Hodak suggests that their goal is to drill four holes (8mm each) on the human skull and insert implants that can be used to control smartphones and computers using their thoughts. The technology will be beneficial for people suffering from paralysis. Hodak said, “There will be great things to come in this field in the next decade, and they should take it seriously.”
Betting on a cybernetic future?
Elon Musk is driving the world into the future, be it his Tesla cars that come are aspiring for fully autonomous driving or his SpaceX rockets. However, Neuralink lies in a completely different territory- it looks at a future where humans are cybernetically enhanced. The company has raised over $150 million from its investors and $100 million from Musk alone. Speaking at a conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, musk said that this type of enhancement would be really important on a “civilization-level scale.”
While the idea of an implant is exciting, it is important to note that the brain could treat such an electrode as an invader. It could form scar tissues around the wires and modify the electrode’s ability to carry signals. Efforts have been made previously to help patients using brain implants, but the long-term implications of the same have been very risky.
Musk acknowledges that they will get there slowly and eventually create a neural lace that could take over a person’s brain. The startup is depending on its robotics technology and materials to realize its goals.