Neuralink: what if you could stream music directly in your head?
What is Neuralink?
A technology called Neuralink, as in “neural link”. Maybe you have heard about it, an idea from fiction brought to life, presented during a YouTube livestream. A creation with the promise from simply helping paraplegics to the highest hopes such as treating cancer.
Who created it? What is it? The experience of a mad scientist? Well, many of his colleagues, and many others around Earth consider him as one. He is the man who dreams of a colonized Mars, and who will do anything to achieve his dream: Elon Musk.
Once again, the Founder of Tesla and SpaceX created a start-up that would aim for a future where human and machine would make one: Neuralink.
Indeed, Neuralink has been created in 2016, but it is only during the YouTube livestream on August 28th, 2020 that people realized how big of a project it was. During this exhibition, Elon showed that Neuralink was a chip placed in the brain.
How does Neuralink work?
This chip would be used to detect when nerves are sending messages to each other, thus accumulating data on how you behave. However, the true meaning of Neuralink is to be able to send neurological signals from the brain to computers, hence the title of this article. We would indeed become part human part machine, being able to communicate with computers, and receiving information from it.
You can only imagine the possibilities that unveils… from functioning in symbiosis with prosthesis to curing mental diseases: Elon proclaimed its main purpose would be to treat spinal cord disorders or illnesses such as depression, Alzheimer, Parkinson, and addiction.
A robot made for this very purpose will process the surgery, with maximum precision, in less than an hour. The idea is to remove a part of the upper skull, totally harmless for the patient, and place the chip in it. A surgery team will monitor the whole process alongside the robot. Elon even said the operation and remission was that fast that you could even go in the morning and be back to your home in the evening!
A brand new digital usage
From a digital point of view, this technology will act as an intermediary between human and machine, making us do thing a computer couldn’t understand before. In the case of the prosthesis, the chip will memorize the movements the body does and predict them, resulting in transmitting the right information from the brain to the prosthetic arm for example.
But even before that, the very beginnings of the product would be simple tasks such as using an smartphone and making mouse clicks on a computer, by making no physical movement. The whole meaning of “digital” would go up another level. Being able to connect our very mind to a computer would brings its lot of innovations, interacting on a totally different scale. Imagine being able to write Tweets within your mind! Or even for mute people, being able to directly speak through a speaker from their mind; a way improved version of the device Stephen Hawking used to speak.
New ways of communication would be developed, the famous “ok Google” will happen directly in the brain, reaching exactly the information needed without saying anything. Think and everything happens.
A good idea?
However, referring to the title of this article, would it be such a good idea? This improvement wouldn’t be too much, the step humanity would take before falling into an era of improved humans, cyborgs even? This is pure speculation, but I shall remind that Neuralink will enable contact with the machine, thus Internet.
It wouldn’t be surprising if “mental advertising” happens to be a thing; ads sent directly to the brain with an effect way more powerful than normal ads.
Aside business issues, neuronal issues could take place. Neuralink can act on emotions, to reduce sadness and stress. Could you imagine if the chip happened to be “hacked” and let someone literally play with your emotions? Shall the human essence to be free and unpredictable, taking it away, even partially, wouldn’t make humans better than machines.
What to think of Neuralink?
Though I am not quite supporting this innovation, I have to say that the idea itself to help incapacitated people it praiseworthy. I completely agree with the fact that the human needs a new technology to evolve and face the multiple health issues he deals with. Getting the world rid of diseases would be breaking the last obstacle of medical researches, thus giving more attention for the tech and space industries. At least this is what I hope, humanity turning to space in order to expand instead of pilling its population on such a small planet. I am all for it, a medical solution thanks to machines.
However what I fear are the possible abuses. It is easy to guess that such a technology will have to be legally supervised and defined, in order to avoid things like hacking or prohibited experiments to happen. It is certain that the more time passes the more mankind will reach for the machines, but I feel like it is necessary to keep our human side and not become complete cyborgs.
I will give Neuralink a chance, as this is a path we are fully discovering right now, and which deserve more in-depth exploration. Still, I will stay wary of the side effects, not that my voice can change anything, but I do hope people such as Elon Musk intend to put machines and technology to good use.
And with those words I shall end my thinking, joining what Elon said: “At some point machines will catch up to us and get way past us. If we want to keep the rhythm, we will have to team with them if we don’t want become outdated”.
Now let’s hope that we won’t give up our humanity to keep this rhythm going.
If you can’t beat em, join em
Neuralink mission statement
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 9, 2020
Catherine C, Dec 5th 2020, “Elon Musk’s brain-computer interface company Neuralink has money and buzz, but hurdles too”
Joséphine JR, Dec 23rd 2020, “Can technologies become therapeutic tools?”
Kenny L, Jul 18th 2019, “What Is Neuralink: A Look At What It Is, What It Wants to Be, and What It Could Become”
YouTube channel CNET, Aug 28th 2020, “Neuralink: Elon Musk’s entire brain chip presentation in 14 minutes (supercut)”
YouTube channel Neuralink, Aug 28th 2020, “Neuralink Progress Update, Summer 2020”