Elon Musk has announced plans to implant computer chips in people’s brains that he says will treat brain diseases and enable superhuman intelligence. The US billionaire’s Neuralink, the secretive company developing brain-machine interfaces, stepped out of the shadows recently and showed off some of the technology it has been developing to the public for the first time, reports The Verge. The company said it plans to begin tests of its new technology on humans in the next year.
The 100-employee company revealed its huge ambitions in a presentation aimed at recruiting more experts. “We want to have the best talent in the world,” Musk said at the California Academy of Sciences.
The chief executive of Tesla, SpaceX and the Boring Company said the chip will help “preserve and enhance your own brain” and “ultimately achieve a sort of symbiosis with artificial intelligence”. The goal is to eventually begin implanting devices in paralyzed humans, allowing them to control phones or computers.
Neuralink has already developed a robotic system that would implant the threads into the brain. The company hopes the procedure will one day be as efficient as laser eye surgery.
N1 sensor, a tiny chip measuring 4x4mm, connects to the brain through the threads. The threads are thinner than a human hair and are barely seen with the human eye. It enters the brain through four holes drilled in the skull.
“We have built arrays of small and flexible electrode ‘threads’, with as many as 3,072 electrodes per array distributed across 96 threads,” a white paper describing the technology said.
Musk said the technology has already been tested on a monkey. “We definitely need to address the elephant in the room, the monkey in the room,” he joked. “A monkey has been able to control the computer with his brain. Just, FYI.”
What motivated Musk to start this Neuralink project is his long-running fear of artificial intelligence, which he has described as humanity’s “biggest existential threat.” In a 2018 SXSW speech, he called AI more dangerous than nuclear warheads and warned that super-powerful computers could soon overtake humans.
“I think this is going to be important at a civilization-wide scale,” Musk said at the event. “Even under a benign AI, we will be left behind. With a high bandwidth brain-machine interface, we will have the option to go along for the ride.”