Imagine there was a company that would safely and painlessly drill tiny holes in your skull and then use fiber optic cables to connect your brain to the internet and other machines. You could learn a language in seconds or communicate with friends and relatives who’d had the same procedure without having to use a cell phone or computer. In essence, your brain would become a sort of human computer that’s connected to the world wide web and other devices 24/7. Sound like something you’d be game for?
If so, entrepreneur Elon Musk’s Neuralink would love to talk to you. All that has to be decided is what device you’ll use to carry on the conversation.
According to the New York Times:
“On Tuesday evening, Neuralink, a company in which Mr. Musk has invested $100 million, detailed the baby steps it has taken toward that goal. Neuralink described a “sewing machine-like” robot that can implant ultrathin threads deep into the brain.
“The company is hoping to begin working with human subjects as soon as the second quarter of next year.”
The idea of such a device being implanted in the brain isn’t new, and it has its roots in science fiction:
“In his 1984 science-fiction novel ‘Neuromancer,’ William Gibson posited the idea of something he called a ‘microsoft,’ a small cartridge directly connected to the brain via a socket to provide a human user with instant knowledge, such as a new language.”
Elon Musk’s Neuralink Says It’s Ready for Brain Surgery https://t.co/SuF9DgEWjJ
— Neuralink (@neuralink) July 17, 2019
The first practical uses of the technology being offered by Neuralink would probably be in the medical field:
“Neuralink technology might one day — relatively soon — help humans with an array of ailments, like helping amputees regain mobility or helping people hear, speak and see.
“The company says surgeons would have to drill holes through the skull to implant the threads. But in the future, they hope to use a laser beam to pierce the skull with a series of tiny holes.”
Neuralink isn’t the only game in town, either. Other companies and even the Defense Department are working along the same line of connecting humans to machines:
“Over the past decade, the Pentagon has financed research both for basic brain sciences and to develop robotic control systems that would permit brain control of prosthetic devices.
“Researchers with funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency already have been able to create interfaces allowing quadriplegics to independently manipulate robot arms to perform manual tasks like drinking.
“The Pentagon has financed a variety of techniques, including approaches that use light rather than embedded electrodes to capture data.”
Not everyone is keen on the idea of having holes drilled and fibers implanted. One reader on the site Hexus.net had this to say regarding Neuralink:
“Sure, by all means it could prove useful for people who are in a situation where this kind of thing wouldn’t be any more invasive than surgery they are already going through and could help them in some way, but I don’t see how creating a form of telepathy is going to help someone with a brain tumor, it kind of feels like he is hiding the fact he is just using them as easy targets, because where would this go after that? The general public? No thanks.”
There will likely be plenty of volunteers for Neuralink to choose from. But the larger implications of wiring our brains directly to the internet have only begun to be considered. Imagine what your Gmail box will look like when someone can send massive spam and clog your entire brain with cures for baldness, erectile dysfunction, and hangovers. Is that a future we welcome?
Take a look at Neuralink’s presentation from earlier this week:
Featured Image Via Wikimedia Commons