When you hear the name Elon Musk, the first thing that comes to mind is electric vehicles and space rockets that can land themselves. However, there is a startup backed by Musk that hasn't gotten the same amount of press as his other ventures. Yet, this venture has the potential to have a significant impact on technology and society as we know it. This company is called Neuralink, and its goal is to merge the human brain with Artificial Intelligence.
In a launch stream on Tuesday, Musk and key members of Neuralink provided more details on the company's mission and roadmap. Musk announced on Tuesday that the ultimate goal of Neuralink is allowing humans to, as Musk put it, "achieve a symbiosis with artificial intelligence." He believes that humans can only keep up with AI by merging with it. Musk also announced plans for human trials of Neuralink, aimed at treating brain injuries, which are set to begin next year.
"This is going to sound pretty weird. Ultimately we can achieve a symbiosis with artificial intelligence. This is not a mandatory thing; this is something you can choose to have if you want. This is going to be really important at a civilization-level scale. Even in a benign AI scenario, we will be left behind. With a high-bandwidth brain-machine interface, we can go along for the ride and have the option of merging with AI."
- Elon Musk
This is hardly the first crazy idea that Elon Musk has had. He's become almost infamous for his lofty promises and projects and his weird plans for society that we, the general public, don't get a say in. The Neuralink project has been mostly shrouded in secrecy since being announced back in 2017, although leaks from Gizmodo showed that the company had invested heavily in primate research studies.
The short-to-medium-term goals for the company are to create a chip that can be implanted in the brain to treat brain diseases and injuries such as Alzheimer's and dementia. Musk says he understands progress will be slow and that the company isn't about to suddenly launch a chip that can take over the human brain. He also added he'd have to get approval from the FDA for their implants.
Everything is still in the early stages right now. Take anything Musk is saying with a grain of salt. He's become great at making electric cars and sending rockets into space, but his side projects – such as the hyperloop and the Boring company – progress slowly, if at all.
It's unclear just how much time or effort Musk is dedicating to Neuralink, how feasible his ideas are, and whether people actually want it anyway. There is also the issue if people either can't afford the merge or just don't wat to go through with it. With all that said, brain implants have shown promising results for treating people with brain problems. This is an essential area of research that could improve the lives of millions of people.
Musk claims that the human trials will begin by the end of 2020. The tests will involve Neuralink attempting to use their devices to allow people with quadriplegia to control computers. So far, we only have Neuralink's word on how everything will work, so it's hard to tell how realistic their objectives are.