Elon Musk, futurist, billionaire, and CEO of Tesla, Space X, and other tech ventures, has a new plan in the works: Melding human brains with computers.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Musk is launching a company called Neuralink—intended to create a device that will allow a brain-computer interface (BCI). By augmenting our brains, the device would, presumably, enable humans to stay up to speed with computers.
Via "neural lace" technology—Musk spoke of the concept at the 2016 Code Conference—Neuralink's brain electrode implants would be intended to download (or upload) information from computer to brain. Max Hodak, who had founded a robotic lab startup called Transcriptic, told the Wall Street Journal that he is a "member of the founding team," and that plans for Neuralink are still in development. Neuralink has also reportedly hired a team of top researchers in artificial intelligence (AI) and neuroscience.
For Musk, who has been vocal in his concerns over whether a superintelligent AI could one day surpass human intelligence and gain control over humans, the development does not sound too far off. Musk has previously funded efforts such as OpenAI which promote "safe" AI research, aimed to prevent the creation of a superintelligent force that could be dangerous for human civilization.
The concept of BCI is relatively new. It uses the concept of harnessing neurons to transfer electric signals. Scientists can already view and manipulate neurons in order to alter certain brain activity—EEG detection, for instance, can monitor brain activity by placing electrodes directly on the skull.
While the complete merging of human mind to machine, in the vein of transhumanist philosophy, is, even to adherents of the concept, a long way off, the enhancements that Neuralink could offer might be capable of augmenting intelligence in other ways, such as improving human memory or creating extra storage capacity. The technology could also potentially serve as a tool to fix neurological diseases like Alzheimer's, ALS, and Parkinson's. In fact, the company has already been registered in California as a "medical research entity."
And Musk is not alone in this line of thinking: Facebook's secret hardware group, Building 8, is also supposedly working on a brain computer interface prototype to scan brains. The United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has also announced a plan to develop implantable neural interface technology over the next four years.
The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers
- According to inside sources, Elon Musk is launching a company called Neuralink that will offer a brain-computer interface.
- The system will use "neural lace" technology that will implant electrodes into human brains in order to upload and download information from brain to computer.
- Musk's brain-computer interface is not the only attempt at augmenting the human brain. Facebook is also rumored to be developing a device that can scan human brains.
- Facebook's secret team is working hardware that can scan your brain and read your mind (TechRepublic)
- Augmented reality gaining more traction than virtual reality in the enterprise (Tech Pro Research)
- OpenAI unveils 'Universe,' a platform that helps AI learn from complex environments (TechRepublic)
- OpenAI launches, aims to advance artificial intelligence to 'benefit humanity' (ZDNet)
- How MIT's new AI system lets you control a robot with your mind (TechRepublic)
- An EEG-controlled robotic arm (ZDNet)
Hope Reese has nothing to disclose. She doesn't hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Hope Reese is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers the intersection of technology and society, examining the people and ideas that transform how we live today.