Allow me to officially declare that Elon Musk is now a rocket surgeon. No, seriously. He has built rockets and now he is building the next brain-to-machine interface. Engadget reports that Elon Musk has finally completed his Neuralink device which the article states is, “a revolutionary brain-machine interface that could blur the lines between humanity and technology, as well as give our feeble fleshy minds a leg up against increasingly capable AIs.” Elon Musk has said of the device, “It’s important that Neuralink solves this problem sooner rather than later, because the point at which we have digital superintelligence, that’s when we pass the singularity and things become just very uncertain.” This machine will “sew” as many as 1,024 impossibly thin 5 micron-wide electrodes into a person’s brain. These electrodes will connect to Neuralink’s “Link 0.9” chip, a sealed unit which plugs into a small hole bored into the patient’s skull and collects the signals that the electrodes pick up. It will reportedly offer inductive charging and a full day’s battery life, enabling users to recharge it as they sleep. It has been tested on mice and primates, with human trials coming soon.
There is too much here to say in the small amount of time we have. This is both incredible that we can do this and horrifically scary at the same time. This is absolutely science fiction come to life. Now, on to the real question: Would I get this? Even if I could afford it, I would not. We discussed this type of things months ago at the start of our show and I still feel the same way. I am not a fan of bio-implants, or as I lovingly call them, corporate-sponsored government tracking devices. Sorry, I misread that. The light was glaring off my tin-foil hat. Moving along, I feel that technology improves too quickly for such a long-term installation. It can be safely removed, so how often will you have to upgrade this thing if you have it implanted? I haven’t even touched on security issues. Even if it is write-only, it is wireless. This is the ultimate IoT device, implanted in your head, and always-on. How long will it be before we’re living in Inception? The only use I can see as being a legitimate one is perhaps for someone who suffers from seizures or other traumatic brain maladies. Otherwise, I’d stay far away from this one. I think there is too many hurdles for this to truly take off, as well as the stigma it carries.
Elon, you magnificent bastard, you continue to inspire me. This is really the stuff of the future. There are some truly inspiring things here. Elon Musk has the money and more importantly the will to make things like this Neurolink a reality. There is other brain research that is being done at universities across the country:
Columbia University neuroscientists have successfully translated brain waves into recognizable speech. A team at the University of California, San Francisco built a virtual vocal tract capable of simulating human verbalization by tapping into the brain. In 2016, a brain implant allowed an amputee to move the individual fingers of a prosthetic hand with their thoughts. And experimental interfaces have allowed monkeys to control wheelchairs and type at 12 words a minute using only their minds.
At the time of this story, Elon states:
“I think at launch, the technology is probably going to be … quite expensive. But the price will very rapidly drop,” Musk said. “Inclusive of surgery … we want to get the price down to a few thousand dollars, something like that. It should be possible to get it similar to Lasik [eye surgery].”
As much as I love progress of the human race, I am gonna agree with DJ on this one. I will not be first in line to test this. I’m just afraid that someone will eventually use this technology for evil, holding my brain hostage until I pay the ransomware fee in Bitcoin. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for innovation and the medical application of this technology holds unlimited potential. Just think what it could do for people suffering dementia or Alzheimer’s. This could be incredible. But I think their needs to be strict oversight and numerous fail-safes built in.
The other thing I fear is what if we have a segment of the population that is “enhanced” and the others are normal. What new prejudices will form ? What new societal rules will be created to deal with this technology ? Will there be wars between the norms and the enhanced ? There have been to many science fiction novels written about this. I think that Elon should proceed, but proceed with ethics in mind. If you want to see this play out in make believe, read the book Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut or watch the brilliant film Gattaca from 1997.