Artificial Intelligence: Elon Musk Demos Neuralink, A Future Brain Implant

September 1, 2020 | Artificial Intelligence, News
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Musk: “In a lot of ways, it’s kind of like a Fitbit in your skull, with tiny wires.”

At the much-anticipated Neuralink “product update,” Elon Musk demonstrated how Gertrude, a pig implanted with a Neuralink brain-computer-interface (BCI) device, was alive and healthy.

“We have a healthy and happy pig, initially shy but obviously high energy and, you know, kind of loving life, and she’s had the implant for two months,” Musk said of Gertrude, the pig. (The Guardian)

Brain-computer-interface

The new Neuralink implant is an improvement over its 2019 predecessor in terms of size and location. Further, a surgical robot implants the device under local anesthesia. It is now smaller, and sits inside the top of the skull instead of the back of the ear, and is removable.

Another pig, Dorothy, was on display. She had the device implanted and then later removed. Yet the animal appeared healthy.

The Neuralink device can wirelessly transmit detailed brain activity without the aid of external hardware. A screen above Gertrude displayed brain impulses as the pig rooted with her snout.

The device is actually a tiny computer that has onboard a battery, processing chip, and Bluetooth radio, along with about a thousand electrode contacts.

“I could have a Neuralink right now and you wouldn’t know,” said Musk.

The Neuralink can be charged wirelessly using an induction coil, the MIT Tech Review said. In the future, users would need to plug it in at bedtime so that it has power for using the next day.

Musk’s claims on Neuralink’s use cases

According to Musk, his BCI could heal a large number of neurological problems. These could range from strokes and memory loss to addiction.

Further, the device, in the foreseeable long-term future, could also help to restore motion in people with severe spinal cord injuries.

Significantly, Musk said of Neuralink: “We have received FDA breakthrough device designation.”

But Musk’s cherished objective is for the device to achieve a merging of the brain with Artificial Intelligence (AI) – “AI Symbiosis” in Musk’s words.

“On a species level, it’s important to figure out how we coexist with advanced AI, achieving some AI symbiosis,” he said, “such that the future of the world is controlled by the combined will of the people of the earth. That might be the most important thing that a device like this achieves.”

However, it appears that real applications trialed with human beings appear quite distant at this point.

A primary challenge is to make the device and its connecting electrodes durable enough to withstand the toxic conditions inside a human brain.

The real purpose of the demo

However, the primary purpose of the event appeared to be to generate enough hype to attract more new employees.

Musk is looking for engineers in the fields of robotics, software, and electricals.

Related Story:   Blackstone’s Schwarzman Argues For International Cooperation on AI

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