On Monday, Elon Musk announced his new passion project, Neuralink to the public. The man known for his business endeavors like Tesla, PayPal and SpaceX is now taking a leap into AI. His aim: to implement AI functionality into the human brain. Sounds like some futuristic ‘i-Robot’ type of stuff right?
The official announcement comes after months of Musk hinting at an upcoming project in the neuroscience field. During a recent speech, he told a crowd in Dubai, “Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence.” He added that “it’s mostly about the bandwidth, the speed of the connection between your brain and the digital version of yourself, particularly output.”
Musk also hasn’t been quiet on the social media front, either, hinting at future announcements via Twitter in January:
Maybe next month
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 25, 2017
Musk is noted as having an active role in the new startup, which will be working toward creating computers that can be put into the brain to help treat diseases. Once that task is accomplished, the company will shoot for more sci-fi stuff like making human-robot hybrids.
What is Neuralink?
According to the license registration in the state of California, Neuralink is a medical research company. The startup has also brought some high-profile field experts on board in the past few months.
Flexible electrodes and nanotechnology expert Dr. Venessa Tolosa; UCSF professor Philip Sabes who also participated in the Musk-sponsored Beneficial AI conference; and Boston University professor Timothy Gardner, who studies neural pathways and in the brains of songbirds have all been confirmed as part of the project.
Much like Musk’s previous undertakings, Neuralink is expected to create a working prototype of its product to prove that it is safe before taking on a huge project. With the aforementioned employees, and Musk’s history of taking on the impossible, we can expect the prototype to be some sort of brain implant that can treat conditions like epilepsy and other neurological diseases.
Musk hasn’t gone into much detail about the products Neuralink will be creating, but he has hinted at the possibility of a brain chip. He recently said it will be a ‘thing that really matters for humanity to achieve symbiosis with machines.’
The Future of Neuroscience
Musk’s new project, while it is fascinating, isn’t the first of its kind.
Kernel, which was started with $100 million of Johnson’s own money, is working on systems that will reverse the effects of neurodegenerative diseases. The company also hopes to create ways to make our brains perform faster in the future as well. “We know if we put a chip in the brain and release electrical signals, that we can ameliorate symptoms of Parkinson’s,” Johnson said of his newest company.
With companies like Neuralink and Kernel taking medical research in a new direction, it will be interesting to see what advances are made in the next five, ten, even twenty years.