Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk is setting his sights on a new goal: connecting humans and computers. The billionaire recently announced his plans to insert a chip into the human mind as soon as the end of next year to enable the connection. It’s part of his campaign to create a “symbiosis with artificial intelligence.” He even believes this technology could help the medical community treat mental illness as scientists collect more information about the human brain.
Learn more about Musk’s ambitious plans for the future of mental illness.
Deepening the Human-Computer Relationship
Elon Musk has been known for his eyebrow-raising ambitions, some of which are taken more seriously than others. As a self-described futurist, he’s always been an outspoken advocate of artificial intelligence while also warning the public that this technology has the potential to leave humans behind, surpassing our cognitive abilities in every way imaginable. Speaking at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco on Tuesday, Musk shared his plans to implant the first wireless chip in a human being by the end of 2020, so humans and computers can essentially work together.
However, implanting such a chip means overcoming steep regulatory hurdles. His company, Neuralink Corp., also currently lacks the technology to implant such a chip in a human brain. Yet, he told the crowd that animal testing was already underway, adding that “a monkey has been able to control the computer with his brain.”
When Musk originally founded Neuralink back in 2016, the original goal was to devise brain interfaces that could relieve the symptoms of chronic medical conditions. But Musk is looking beyond the medical community, setting his sights on the future of AI and its relationship with human beings.
Back in November, Musk referred to the idea as “an AI extension of yourself,” in which human beings could harness the power of computers, giving them superhuman intelligence. While this may sound like something out of a science fiction movie or an episode of Black Mirror, learning more about the brain could help the medical community treat a range of chronic and mental health conditions.
Musk’s announcement has raised a lot of questions and interest from the business community. The Securities and Exchange Commission recently reported that the company had already raised more than $39 million from seven different investors, which is more than three-quarters of its goal.
Will This Technology Benefit Patients?
While the details behind this technology remain vague, Musk said ultimately the chips, or sensors, will be connected to an app on the user’s smartphone. He hopes to make the technology affordable to everyone, including those in the medical community. The devices will be installed by a robot, which will be operated by a surgeon. The robot will drill a 2-millimeter hole in the patient’s skull and the chip part of the device will plug the hole once the operation is complete.
The company said this technology can be used by anyone looking to acquire superhuman intelligence, but it can also benefit those suffering from memory loss, brain injury, or trauma. The devices can also be used by stroke victims, cancer patients, quadriplegics, patients with congenital defects, or those simply looking for a memory boost.
Many people are skeptical of handing over the keys to a person’s brain to a company like Neuralink. Major technology companies like Facebook and Google have come under fire as of late for mishandling private user information. So, why would anyone want to hook their brain up to an app that’s owned by another tech conglomerate?
Frederike Kaltheuner of Privacy International commented, “Gathering data from raw brain activity could put people in great risk, and could be used to influence, manipulate and exploit them. Who has access to this data? Is this data shared with third parties? People need to be in full control over their data.”
Lots of questions remain regarding this new technology, if it ever becomes available to the public, and if it could be used to treat patients suffering from memory loss or brain trauma. If this technology is a success, it could change or expand the medical community’s understanding of the human brain.
Until then, we’ll have to wait and see if Musk can deliver such an ambitious enterprise.