It is time we took a closer look at Elon Musk’s neural brain implant company, Neuralink and what it means for the future of humanity. Experts believe that it could produce cures for chronic defects like paralysis, blindness, disability or mental illness. But how is going to do that exactly?
What Is Neuralink?
Elon Musk owns a bunch of companies, but out of all of them, Neuralink is the most mysterious one. No one knows the extent of the work that goes in there or on what technology company’s scientists work on. Whenever Elon comes on stage to talk about it, the things he says feel absolutely amazing but unreal as well.
To get the gist of Neuralink, according to Elon, it is going to help humans by making them better. I am paraphrasing here, but Elon wants humans to be able to do a lot of high-tech sci-fi stuff that we often see in TV shows. For instance, controlling electronics with your brain, communicating telepathically so on and so forth.
There are a lot of theories on what a Neuralink could do, but so far, there is little to no evidence of it. Neuralink is classified as a Brain-Computer Interface or BCI for short. Unlike what anyone would have you believe it is not a new technology. Neurosurgeons and scientists have been sticking things onto people’s heads for quite some time now.
What makes Neuralink different is its mass-market appeal. It is going to be a consumer product that people willingly put in their brains to gain new abilities, or so I am told. Meanwhile, when doctors or scientists do it, they do so to patients in the wake of any disease. The Neuralink, however, will most likely be available to everyone, diseased, differently-abled and the rest.
Another difference between Neuralink and other BCIs is that the former is an invasive implant while the latter is mostly non-invasive. It is also important to note that non-invasive BCI doesn’t work as well.
The installation of an invasive BCI requires brain surgery which puts a cap on how many people can get it. However, Neuralink will make use of an automated robot surgeon to implant the chip that’d, in theory, increase its mass adoption.
Elon has compared the procedure of getting a Neuralink implant to the process of eye surgery. In the future, as its mass adoption increases, Neuralink and eye surgery will have price parity.
What Can It Do?
The feats that a Neuralink can accomplish seem jaw-dropping. According to Elon and his team, it can cure spinal damage, brain injury, mental disorders, neurological diseases like Parkinson’s, paralysis and so on. Soon after Elon Musk presented the Neuralink, MIT released an article refuting a lot of the claims made by him.
However, one of the functions of a BCI like Neuralink, which we know to be true, is the ability to control a computer or electronic device with simply your brain waves.
This finding was revealed by a group of researchers at Brown University in Rhode Island, and it was titled the “Brain Gate.” During a demonstration it enabled people with ALS to control an iPad using their thoughts.
Neuralink is expected to refine this research. It will massively improve the quality of life for those who have paralysis. There is also a possibility that such people might be able to control a device by simply using their thoughts. Paralysis often occurs due to a broken connection between the brain and muscle. So a Neuralink can bypass that connection restoring normal functionality.
The first prototypes for Neuralink will be for patients with severe physical or mental disability. When the trials on them are successful, Neuralink will move towards commercial availability, and it is here the humanity as a whole will change forever.
For starters, a Neuralink implant will give a person the ability to control their electronic devices with mere thoughts. We already carry our smartphones 24/7, so one can argue we’re already part-Cyborg. But a Neuralink will provide us with a bigger bandwidth.
Imagine not needing a TV or any kind of screen because everything you want to watch can be streamed directly into your eyes. Or think of video games that require no controller, where the main character is controlled using your thoughts.
And if other abilities of Neuralink are true, it could very well replicate the neurons in our brain into a surrogate body, hence giving us digital immortality.
And we got to finally see a glimpse of it on 9th April 2021, when Neuralink shared a video of a monkey controlling the famous pong videogame with his thoughts. The monkey had the Neuralink chip implanted in his brain and was able to play the classic videogame at a high difficulty without any error, using just his thoughts.
Why Neuralink Will Succeed
Unlike other BCIs, Neuralink is aiming to be a mass-market product. In a lot of ways, Neuralink is similar to Tesla. It’s offering a solution to real-world problems packaged in a mass-appeal product. Neuralink will aid humanity in getting rid of chronic diseases that have plagued us since the dawn of time while also offering its user the ability to binge-watch Netflix in their sleep.
It is important to note that Neuralink has a really long road ahead. Putting a chip in someone’s brain at a mass scale requires a level of testing, certification and approval almost unheard of.
However, it will also be one of the most awaited consumer electronic product in the history of the world. One that’d help all of us transcend.