On August 28th, Elon Musk showed off Neuralink’s chip implant on a YouTube live stream with an updated design as well as unlikely test subjects.
For those who don’t know, Neuralink is a company founded in 2016 by Elon Musk. Their mission is, according to their website, building the future of brain interfaces. In their words, they are, “building devices now that will help people with paralysis and inventing new technologies that will expand our abilities, our community, and our world.” Little was known about the company’s advances before the progress update presentation, but the idea of programming mental illness, brain injuries, paralysis, blindness, and others out of the brain using a brain implant kept people’s interest.
The previous design was mostly outside of the body except for tiny wires that would have been inserted. The new and improved chip, called the Link 0.9, is the size of a coin. It will be inserted into the skull but would have the ability to be charged through the skin.
During the presentation, Elon revealed that they have put the implants inside of live pigs. One without a chip, one with a chip, and the other who has had the chip removed. With the help of Gertrude, the pig with the chip implant, the chip was able to track her brain activity as she moved around the pen. Showing one of the pigs with the chip taken out is important because it showed that it is possible to have the link taken out without any brain damage.
The second version of the robot that would insert Link 0.9 was also featured in the presentation. According to CNN, Elon Musk claimed last year that the robot would be able to implant wire threads attached to the Link 0.9 under a person’s skull without hitting blood vessels and causing “minimal trauma.”
Elon also mentioned that the company was given a “breakthrough devices” designation from the FDA back in July and that they are preparing for human implantations, though there was no mention of how soon this will be.
People are wondering about what the future holds for this upcoming technology. It’s not hard to imagine the pros and cons of getting future brain implants. Lex Fridman, according to Medium, is a research scientist at MIT working on artificial intelligence and autonomy in self-driving cars. He was one of the guests invited to the presentation and he made a YouTube video on his channel about how Neuralink could change the world and human condition. Here are some of the ideas he made in his video, The Future of Neuralink:
The first point he brings up is that Neuralink could alleviate human suffering. This was one of the things that the Neuralink team mentioned during a Q and A after the presentation. Since the brain is the main source of pain, he claims that if Neuralink is able to understand how the brain works that is when they could understand, for example, how neurological diseases work. That way we can treat them.
Being able to understand how the mind works ties into his second point: consciousness and intelligence. By studying how the mind works, people can find better ways to create artificial intelligence. Fridman also believes that Neuralink could lead to understanding where intelligence and consciousness arise functionally, figuring out what consciousness is made of, and that consciousness could be studied scientifically rather than philosophically.
Another possibility Fridman brings up is that Neuralink could help give people the ability to move again or see color for the first time. Augmentation of the mind could also happen, like regaining sight and beyond what is humanly possible.
Fridman also mentions that Neuralink could also give people a more captivating experience when it comes to gaming and virtual reality. Videogames have improved drastically. For example, the graphics of Tomb Raider (1996) compared to Batman Arkham Knight (2015) is like night and day. Having a brain interface could give gamers a life-like experience while playing. Having the ability to beat Joker would be revolutionary.
These are just some of the ideas Lex Fridman has for the future of Neuralink. If you want a more in-depth version of his ideas, the link to his video is below.