Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX and CEO at Tesla, is known for his ambitious ideas that could completely change the course of humanity’s future. He founded Neuralink, a company that is developing a next-generation brain-machine interface that could one day solve a variety of brain-related issues; Including restoring limb functionality, solving memory loss, even cure issues like depression and addiction via a brain chip implant. Musk initially aims to focus on the medical aspect of the neural interface, like solving mobility issues with paralyzed individuals. Ultimately, his team aims to achieve ‘symbiosis’ with Artificial Intelligence (AI). Neuralink “would solve a lot of brain/spine injuries and is ultimately essential for AI symbiosis,” Musk said.
According to Musk, Neuralink could add a third layer of digital superintelligence in the human brain. He explained the brain has two systems: The first layer is the limbic system which drives impulses. The second layer is the cortex system that tries to control the limbic system by acting as an intelligence layer. The third layer can be Neuralink, sitting on top of those two layers to work together. “Perhaps there can be a tertiary layer where digital superintelligence lies. That will be vastly more intelligent than the cortex but still co-exist peacefully and in a benign manner with the cortex and limbic system,” he said earlier this year during a podcast.
Neuralink will host a presentation on August 28 to discuss its brain-chip development progress. During Neuralink’s first presentation in July 2019, Musk, alongside medical engineers, described a very small chip that could enable a paralyzed individual to control a smartphone, computer, and even prosthetics with their mind. The chip is called “N1” it is a square measuring 4 by 4 millimeters and features 1,024 electrodes. The company says that developing a brain-interface chip with that many electrodes for brain stimulation had not been achieved before.
In a Twitter conversation with a neuroscientist that goes by the user name ‘Neuroskeptic’, Musk said that in the upcoming Neuralink presentation, the company will show a brain’s neurons firing in real-time. “The brain has 86 billion neurons all firing away at once. But what if they were very polite and waited in turn? Even if it only takes 1 ms [millisecond] for a neuron to fire (one action potential), it would take 2.7 years for them all to fire,” the neuroscientist wrote. – Musk responded, “They don’t fire all at once. Some go several seconds to minutes without firing. Some fire several times per second. Very wide timing distribution. – Will show neurons firing in real-time on August 28th. The matrix in the matrix,” Musk said.
Musk shared today that the device could also be implanted to “restore movement even if someone has a fully severed spinal cord.” When asked if one day in the future, Neuralink could be implanted into a newborn baby’s brain Musk said –“Neuralinks are currently meant for mature brains and functionality is lost if removed. Rewiring of neurons is certainly possible, but won’t make up for loss of the Link.” He also revealed that Neuralink will restore hearing loss to the deaf, as well as “extend range of hearing beyond normal frequencies and amplitudes.”
The company says it plans to implant four of their N1 chips inside the person’s skull, in the brain’s cortex. One chip by the somatic sensory cortex and three chips by the motor areas. These chips have very small electrode thread wires, as thin as a human hair, that will be threaded into the brain with a laser machine’s precision, where they can stimulate the neurons. The chips will also be wired to an inductive coil that connects to a battery behind one ear to power the system. The Neuralink device will be accessed wirelessly, via a Bluetooth connection. Enabling the user to control their prosthetics, cell phone, any computer system or machine – with their ‘thoughts’. Musk had previously mentioned the first human to have a Neuralink brain-chip implanted will be someone with quadriplegia.
Earlier this month, Musk said he is seeking to hire new engineers at Neuralink to help develop some aspects of the Neuralink device, like “signal processing” and “inductive charging” which suggests that the company is already looking into working on wireless connection methods. The August 28th presentation is expected to offer new details about the technology, and reveal when the first human trials will initiate.