Elon Musk’s Neuralink Hopes to put a Chip in your Brain

This week Elon Musk unveiled his most sci-fi project so far from his start-up Neuralink. This is basically a computer chip connected to exceptionally slender wires with electrodes on them; all of which is meant to be embedded in a person’s brain by a surgical robot.

Should you be worried? Maybe.

What is this chip spoken by Neuralink?

Neuralink,  the Elon Musk-led startup that the multi-entrepreneur founded in 2017, is working on technology that’s based around “threads,” which it says can be implanted in human brains with much less potential impact to the surrounding brain tissue versus what’s currently used for today’s brain-computer interfaces. “Most people don’t realize, we can solve that with a chip,” Musk said to kick off Neuralink’s event; talking about some of the brain disorders and issues the company hopes to solve.

Musk also said that, long-term, Neuralink really is about figuring out a way to “achieve a sort of symbiosis with artificial intelligence.” He went on to say, “This is not a mandatory thing. This is something you can choose to have if you want.”
This implant would connect wirelessly to a small behind-the-ear receiver that could communicate with a computer.

For now, however, the aim is medical, and the plan is to use a robot that Neuralink has created; that operates somewhat like a “sewing machine” to implant this threads; which are incredibly thin (like, between 4 and 6 μm which means about one-third the diameter of the thinnest human hair) deep within a person’s brain tissue; where it will be capable of performing both read and write operations at very high data volume.


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How Neuralink & its brain chip could help?

The idea of a brain-machine interface is not new; scientists have been working on them for decades, and they have been implanted and tested in animals such as monkeys as well as in people.
There are some FDA-approved deep-brain stimulation devices meant for, among other things, controlling tremors in people with Parkinson’s disease, and several tech companies have worked on their own methods for connecting the brain to computers: Facebook, for instance, has worked on a non-invasive device to let you send text messages by thinking.
Yet these efforts tend to be confined to labs for a number of reasons; they’re expensive, bulky, require training (of both the user and the computer); and, when it comes to an under-the-skull implant, the person outfitted with it generally must be physically tethered to a computer for it to work.

Even Musk knows that he has to take it a little slow. He insists that people have nothing to fear. “It’s not going to be suddenly Neuralink will have this neural lace and start taking over people’s brains,” Musk said. Rather, he hopes Neuralink will help humans “to achieve a symbiosis with artificial intelligence.”

But all of that is still a long way off. Neuralink is still working on testing its BMI on rats and will need FDA approval to try it on humans. The company isn’t ready for that yet; and Musk made it a point to say he hoped his presentation would help to attract talent to advance the experiment.

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Navaneetha Suresh

Navaneetha Suresh

Navaneetha, commonly known as "nav", loves to read, play badminton, play the keyboard and sing but when she's not doing any of those, she loves to write. What started as a high school hobby to write is now her ongoing passion.

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