Through a prototype surgically inserted into the skull of a pig called Gertrude, Elon Musk showed Neuralink‘s technologies to create an interactive relation between brains and computers. Musk’s firm implanted a coin-sized electronic chip into the piglet’s head to illustrate its bold ambitions to construct a functional head-to-machine device.
Musk’s ambition is still far from reality. However, Musk said in July the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued clearance for testing the “breakthrough product.”
Musk also demonstrated a more lightweight second-generation implant. The chip slips into a narrow cavity hollowed out of the skull. Small “threads” of electrodes infiltrate the brain’s outer surface to send an electrical signal from the nerve cells. The threads are also built to connect back, with computer-generated signs of their own, in line with the company’s longer-term plans.
How does this chip really work?
Neuralink’s interface may allow people with neurological disorders to regulate their minds via phones or computers.
“It’s kind of like a Fitbit in your skull with tiny wires,” the billionaire entrepreneur said on a webcast.
Mr Musk claims that such chips could potentially be used to effectively treat diseases like diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and trauma to the spinal cord.
But the long-term goal is to usher in an era of what Mr Musk terms “superhuman intellect.” That’s in part to counter such strong artificial intelligence that he believes it could kill humanity.
How Gertitude came to the picture
Gertrude is among the three pigs in pens that took part in the webcast test on Friday. It took her a while to move. But as she swallowed and sniffed straw, the action emerged on a graph that monitored her neuronal function. She, therefore, dismissed all the publicity that followed her.
Wireless impulses are transmitted by the processor in her brain, suggesting neuronal activity in her snout while searching for a meal.
Mr. Musk said Neuralink streamlined and rendered its first system to a smaller version.
“It actually fits quite nicely in your skull. It could be under your hair and you wouldn’t know,” Musk said.
Established in 2017, Neuralink continues to hire scientists. That is something that Mr. Musk advertised on Twitter last month.
The gadget is a tiny chip that comprises more than 3,000 electrodes connected to thinner flexible fibers. The chip could also track the behavior of 1,000 brain neurons.
At the Kording Lab of the University of Pennsylvania, Ari Benjamin told BBC News the main stumbling block for the invention might be a sheer sophistication of the human brain.
“Once they have the recordings, Neuralink will need to decode them.” He added Musk’s business could touch the bar, which is our lack of simple knowledge of how the brain functions, no matter how many neurons they report.
“Decoding goals and movement plans is hard when you don’t understand the neural code in which those things are communicated.”
Mr. Musk’s SpaceX and Tesla caught the public with their efforts to accelerate advancement in spaceflight and electric cars.
But these also illustrate the visionary behaviors to make confident promises. These would end up taking even longer than expected to finish.