What would you do if you could become "superhuman" with the help of one little chip? Imagine controlling all the devices around you, storing and retrieving memories whenever you want, treating or diagnosing neurological ailments at will, all this with your mind. All this could soon become possible by upgrading the brain via "neural lace" technology, which would give us the ability to communicate with machines without a physical interface.
All this sounds unreal, like a science-fiction movie, but entrepreneur Elon Musk has decided to make it possible, despite the many risks of a neurosurgery to implant a computer interface into the brain. Musk recently launched a company called "Neuralink," whose task will be to pursue "neural lace" brain-interface technology to link the human brain with a computer and take us one step forward in our evolution.
The main goal of Neuralink is to create a “direct cortical interface” to upload and download thoughts. This process would entail the implantation of tiny electrodes on the brain. Musk believes that embracing this technology will help us keep pace with artificial intelligence. His biggest fear is that in the future “we would be so far below of ultra-intelligent AI that we’d be like a house cat.” His solution is to add an “AI layer” to optimize brain's mental processes like memory, neurotransmission, cognitive function, intelligence, and adaptation.
Musk plans to “unlock our brains” to save us from extinction (which goes hand in hand with his plan to take mankind to Mars). However, according to an article by The Economist, there are many things about neurology that Musk still ignores. His millionaire investments could yield faster results if only he knew how complex is the brain. His present lack of understanding of how brain cells work makes it harder to design an interface that the brain could share with a machine.
Mr Musk’s project is very different from the one Mark Zuckerberg is currently working on. Facebook's founder seeks to develop a noninvasive brain-computer interface technology that will allow us to communicate directly with other external hardware devices. Another company called Kernel is following their footsteps with a different approach. Their goal is to build noninvasive devices for the treatment of neurological conditions whose cause can be found in the brain, like epilepsy, with a technique called "deep brain stimulation."
The immediate goal of Neurolink is to work with multiple nanochip implants that would not only send signals, but also gather higher quality neural data from more regions of the brain to understand it thoroughly. However, David Eagleman, a neuroscientist from Stanford University and a Kernel collaborator, stated that procedures to implant electrodes in the human brain are highly dangerous, “with any neurosurgery, there’s a certain risk of infection, or death on the operating table.” Yet, this doesn’t seem to be an obstacle for the founder of SpaceX and Tesla.
The entrepreneur has claimed that, once perfected, his technology will not seek monetary profits, but fulfill medical purposes. However, his future trade strategy is still unclear.
Musk hasn't set any definite date for the release of the neural lace. We only know that this has become one of his priorities. Will enhancing our brains really make us evolve as humans? Only time will tell.