If Elon Musk is right, a new chip he is developing could eventually make people more productive, help those suffering from serious health ailments, and give the average Joe and Jane extraordinary capabilities. It may even usher in an entirely new era.
This chip is called Neuralink. Development began four years ago by a company Musk founded, but detailed information has been slow in coming. However, the little bit that has trickled out has been intriguing, and in recent interviews with The New York Times and other news outlets he has revealed additional details.
The goal of the new chip seems simple but is actually very complex: create a direct link between the brain and computers.
The potential long-term benefits read like a science-fiction wish list, only this one could become science fact.
Musk told the Independent, a British publication, about some of the benefits it could produce. Among those: This chip will make it possible to pick up sounds that would previously have been beyond the normal range of hearing.
But much more significant, Neuralink may potentially also be able to help people suffering from neurological issues and brain disorders like Parkinson’s, regulate hormone levels that control moods, and even provide other “enhanced abilities,” such as improved reasoning skills. It may even restore a measure of movement for people with fully-severed spinal cords and a limited amount of sight to the blind.
Musk added that he plans to enhance the chip’s capabilities to a point that would enable ordinary people to compete with artificial intelligence.
“If you can have this brain interface with all the information in the world and can access that with thought – can you imagine what the implications are?” Musk asked.
If Neuralink lives up to just some of this potential, the world will be cheering.
Creepy And Spooky
To a lot of people, the idea of putting chips into a human brain is chilling, bizarre, and threatening. No one wants to be a cyborg, feel like a robot or become the next Six Million Dollar Man or Woman.
But over time, this attitude will very likely change. Volunteers who have been “chipped” will happily show off the benefits. And as the numbers of people who have been chipped increase, not only will this idea no longer seem strange, but over time may become mainstream. And it won’t be just Neuralink alone they are more receptive to but AI in general.
According to the documentary Neuralink: Merging Man and Machine, this chip could increase a person’s capabilities by multiple orders of magnitude by effectively increasing the number of neurons in their brain.
Each Neuralink chip has 1,000 electrodes. Up to 10 of these tiny devices can easily fit into a person’s head (FDA approval will be required). Each chip would affect a different area of the brain.
In preliminary experiments, with just 256 electrodes - 2 ½% of the number Neuralink eventually plans to use - humans have been able to control computer cursors, robotic limbs and speech synthesizers. A related system made by a different firm has only 10 electrodes and is being used to help patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Clearly, Neuralink, which will ultimately have 100 times this number of electrodes, has incredible potential. Of course, as more powerful chips are developed, the potential of this technology increases exponentially.
Neuralink chips will be inserted into patients by an ultra-precise robot. A hospital stay is unnecessary, there are no stitches required, and caretakers need not be involved. Even at this early stage of development, each chip is capable of storing and retrieving incredible amounts of information.
“Teasers” about Neuralink are being released with greater frequency and they truly connote a magical quality. This new chip may make it possible to:
*quickly master studies that normally would take months or even years to learn;
*navigate a foreign city with the ease of a native without needing English signs;
*control video games by thought alone;
*communicate telepathically and without any words.
The potential options are limitless and will steadily increase as the technology improves.
Changing With The Times
Neuralink may also bring about social changes that are not evident yet. For example, “chipped” people may have an advantage over others when seeking employment, when being considered for promotions, or when starting their own businesses. To put this another way, even people averse to the idea of chip implants may feel compelled to comply if, for no other reason, than to remain competitive.
Will Neuralink portend an era of people using their beefed-up capabilities for the betterment of mankind? Or will evil forces attempt to use this technology to control the world? Nikola Tesla’s warning, made decades ago, seems more timely today than ever before.
Implants into humans may begin by the end of this year and will become more appealing as the technology improves.
In a recent interview with The New York Times, Musk predicted that related AI technology could overtake humans within five years. “We are headed toward a situation where AI is vastly smarter than humans and I think that time frame is less than five years from now,» he stated.
Musk will hold a Neuralink “event” on August 28, so we’ll have a better idea of what this technology has in store for us in the very near future. Among the issues people will want to learn more about: To what extent, if at all, will the thoughts and/or actions of “chipped” individuals be monitored? Also, will it be possible to control chipped people remotely?
So what do you think? Do the potential benefits of Neuralink outweigh the drawbacks? Would you volunteer to be chipped? If you answer “Yes,” don’t be surprised if you’ll have to wait in a long line.