Do you ever dream of improving your abilities by a computer chip in your brain?
Thanks to Elon Musk’s latest unveiling of Neuralink’s “brain chip,” a person with a neurological disease may be able to restore the brain function they have lost.
In this exciting episode of Short and Sweet AI, I talk about the recent update that Elon Musk gave on his company Neuralink – including how and why his team implanted a coin-sized computer chip in a pig’s brain to create a brain-to-machine interface.
Listen to this episode of Short and Sweet AI to learn more or keep reading…
What is Neuralink?
Neuralink is a brain computer interface or BCI. The brain thinks via electrical signals and sends these signals back and forth via neurons, which act like tiny switches.
A brain computer interface works as an electronic device that sends signals to the neurons in your brain. To help understand this better, think about how a hearing aid works. It sends sound signals to parts of the brain involved with hearing and fits on the outside of your brain in your ear.
Elon Musk has made a device that fits into your brain and can gather and send data via electrical signals from 1000 different channels. For comparison, the current medically approved brain machine devices only have 100 channels that gather electrical signals.
When speaking about Neuralink’s chip on a webcast, Musk has said, “In a lot of ways, it’s kind of like a Fitbit in your skull, with tiny wires.”
How does the Neuralink device work?
The Neuralink device is a computer chip the size of a coin. It fits into the skull through a drill hole sealed with superglue (total truth).
The link connects to the brain via tiny wires the thickness of a human hair. The device then transmits signals recorded from the brain wirelessly. Initially, the Neuralink fit like a headset behind the ear. However, Musk’s latest demonstration showed it can now be implanted in the head. Essentially, no one will know it’s there.
The chip battery lasts 12 hours and can be recharged wirelessly. Musk recommended recharging the chip battery wirelessly overnight as you sleep.
One of the most important things to understand about the latest Neuralink chip is that each of the 1,000 channels is read-write. This means that each channel can pick up signals from neurons and send signals to other neurons nearby.
How Neuralink works when implanted in a pig’s brain
In Musk’s latest update, a pig with an implanted Neuralink chip was used to demonstrate Neuralink in action.
When the pig walked on a treadmill or sniffed for food, a screen displayed the neurons firing inside its brain matching the pig’s movement.
This demonstration proved that the computer chip could send and receive signals from the brain neurons via different channels.
The next step would be to use a Neuralink chip to restore motion in people who are paralyzed or missing limbs. In recognition of these breakthroughs, the FDA appropriately bestowed on Neuralink it’s Breakthrough Device Designation.
Musk believes that the Neuralink chip could potentially be used to help cure serious health conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, or dementia. The idea is to use Neuralink initially for medical diseases that erode the brain’s abilities. The link could maintain or improve someone’s cognition as in Alzheimer’s or improve walking in someone with Parkinson’s disease.
This chip could even be used to enhance meditation or feelings of happiness, eliminate pain, or increase alertness. Just imagine telepathy between yourself and someone else with a Neuralink chip, or the ability to Google something just by thinking it – it would be extraordinary.
What are the critics saying?
Critics are sceptical that a computer chip in the brain can translate or control abstract emotions, memories, or ideas. They point out the brain is not a hard drive, and a memory is not a video.
Yes, the idea of having an electronic chip in your brain and telepathy with other people can make you feel uncomfortable. But remember, all these advancing technologies, just as in the past, are about using them to work for us.
People were frightened by the cotton gin, by cars, and certainly by airplanes. Many great minds think we will connect our minds to computers in the future, and we’ll have all of human knowledge available to us in an instant. The futurist, Ray Kurzweil, says that it will happen by 2035. Neuralink makes this prediction one step closer to reality.