The Neuralink Human Trials are finally here!
Elon Musk Has Been Working on Neuralink For Years
This isn’t news to anyone who follows Musk and his various companies. He’s talked about Neuralink on multiple occasions over years, though there has been a notable lack of tangible developments. The last time he mentioned Neuralink was at Recode’s Code Conference in 2017. Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence, Musk said at that time. It’s mostly about the bandwidth, the speed of the connection between your brain and your computer… Even if somebody doesn’t want to be ‘neutralized,’ you’re going to do it anyway.
Musk didn’t provide any specifics on what he has been working on with Neuralink since then, but Musk did tweet out a concept video of what a neural lace could look like (see above). He says that in recent months he’s been focusing his efforts on making Neuralink a reality. If you assume any rate of advancement in [artificial intelligence], we will be left behind by a lot, he told Axios. I don’t love the idea of being a house cat, but what’s the solution?
I think one of the solutions that seem maybe the best is to add an AI layer. Just as your cortex works symbiotically with your limbic system, your AI extension of yourself should work symbiotically with you. The fundamental goal of Neuralink is to build a device that can be implanted in our brains and help us merge with software, Musk said at SXSW. It sounds crazy because it is crazy—but it might also be genius.
What is the Purpose of NN?
The reason NN was created was because of a critical need in humanity’s future. There are an estimated 7 billion people on Earth right now, and that number is expected to rise to nearly 12 billion by 2050. The average person will live longer than ever before due to improved health care and medicine. With that increase in population, there is going to be an acute shortage of resources such as food, water, and space for housing. This shortage also means we’re going to have fewer new jobs created over time as well as more unnecessary competition for those jobs which exist already today. For example: Does your company really need 5 marketing directors? Or 3 product managers? Or 4 salespeople?
I believe NN is humanity’s only real chance of solving these problems. With a direct connection between computers and our brains, we’ll be able to directly connect humans to each other via computer networks. This will allow us to store information in many different areas of our brains instead of just one or two spots (like how it works now with our current memory) which will provide for a huge boost in brain capacity and efficiency. But that’s not all.
In addition to that, it will allow us to download information directly into our brains using computers. Right now, much of what we learn is in a classroom setting where students are taught via teachers and books and computers. If you learn faster than your classmates or faster than your teachers, then you can’t move on until everyone has caught up with you. By downloading information directly into our brains from computer networks, however, we can skip all that and just start learning when we want to learn. With NN installed, knowledge could be added immediately instead of overtime and at a set pace determined by someone else. Imagine having an entire library of medical knowledge available immediately when someone gets sick? Or imagine having every single book ever written instantly accessible in your brain whenever you need it?
How does it work?
This human brain-to-computer interface is designed to read people’s thoughts, process them, and relay that info directly to a computer. But how does it work? As you can see in the video, Neuralink takes a two-pronged approach. The first implant is placed in your brain and includes 100 electrodes to record 1,000 neuron signals per second, reports VentureBeat. That information is then stored on what’s described as an MP3 player implanted under your skin. As shown in one slide of Elon Musk’s presentation earlier today, data can be transferred via USB drive (or RFID). Another connector on that device interfaces with your nervous system through nerve fibres just beneath your skin.
In a section of his presentation titled 6 Things That Must Happen for Neuralink to Work, Musk highlights understanding bandwidth, or how much data can be transferred from your brain per second. The more signals per second that can be recorded, interpreted, and transferred, the better your results should be in theory. Also notable is that while current best practices have been focused on non-invasive solutions — such as electroencephalography (EEG) — Neuralink’s approach requires invasive surgery to implant electrodes inside patients’ brains. If successful, however, Elon Musk predicts it could help those with conditions like epilepsy who require drastic life changes if not lifelong treatment.
What do you think? Neuralink is not only focused on improving memory, but also hopes to one day offer a direct connection between your brain and virtual reality devices. Whether it succeeds or not, we’ll have to wait and see if it has positive results in human trials. Keep an eye out for updates at Neuralink’s website and sign up here if you want more info.
Where are we in 2032?
I could spend forever on questions about where we’ll be in 2032, but I’ll focus on what I believe will be one of our major challenges at that time: growing old. In 2032, it is entirely possible that people will live longer than they are currently doing now. That’s a positive thing – indeed, longevity is one of those things that has always driven human evolution. However, if advances in medicine continue to cause longer and healthier lives, we’re going to need to ensure there are mechanisms in place for our society as a whole to cope with extended life expectancy.
What we do need to focus on, though, is learning how to live longer with minimal side effects. That’s why today I’m announcing Neuralink’s plans for human trials beginning in 2032. This trial will be used to assess some of our initial breakthroughs in neural-computer interfaces, and at its conclusion, we will be ready to begin mass production of these devices as an implant that can be fitted inside people who need them. All of us at Neuralink are excited about where this technology can take us and are extremely grateful for all your support along the way. We couldn’t have gotten here without you, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Again, thank you for everything. Without your support, none of us would be where we are today. You believed in our vision to help humanity overcome its greatest challenges and showed us that your faith in us was justified by your financial commitment to our dream. We can’t tell you how much we appreciate it – and I hope that Neuralink’s success will show you just how much we value your belief in us.
Who is already using NN today?
Today, Neuralink is working with humans in their early trial stages of NN. They’ve already begun working with a group of Parkinson’s patients and have found a significant decrease in symptoms. Brain injuries and diseases are some of their main areas of focus, but Neuralink has plans to expand into other areas as well. Elon Musk announced earlier today that he plans to bring something new to life as early as next year: Neural Lace. The goal is to build a neuro-enhancement product for human brains which could help people think faster, longer, and more clearly than they ever thought possible before. According to Musk, the process will be painless because it’ll use one of our own body’s systems: blood vessels.
It’s based on inserting tiny filaments that are one-thousandth of a millimetre wide into certain key parts of your brain. This would allow you to be able to process more information and interface with technology without needing either big, clunky gear or big implants inside your skull. It would be much smaller and less invasive, said Musk in an interview with Wait But Why. The neural lace is apparently safer than current methods because it’s natural to our body systems, which means that if it somehow fails, there will be no major side effects like what can happen when foreign objects enter our bodies today. Even if it works perfectly, we still don’t know how it’ll interact with people’s brains over long periods of time.
Musk said that he plans to have something ready for human use in about one year. Musk admitted that it’s still an early prototype and has a long way to go before it becomes a mainstream reality, but even so, he believes that once people experience using NN technology, they’ll likely never want to go back. Musk thinks that by 2040, with advancements in NN technology, we could improve people’s average IQ by five points and boost their memory capacity so they can remember almost everything. Even after living over 80 years of our lives, we could retain almost every detail if things work out according to Musk’s plan. What are your thoughts on all of these new developments? Does Neuralink excite you? Let us know in the comments below!