For the past few years, Elon Musk has been secretly whispering about connecting the human brain to a computer. His company, Neuralink, has recently released some details about just how it plans to do that.
Spoiler alert: it involves laser drills. The team working on Neuralink hopes that soon, a series of laser beams can drill tiny holes in the skull to insert the system. If it sounds like something out of a sci-fi book by Daniel Wilson, that’s because it pretty much is.
Beam Me Up, Elon
Neuralink stole headlines with its livestream presentation following years of secrecy and cryptic tweets from its CEO. Higher-ups from the company joined Musk on stage to discuss some highly anticipated details about the brain-computer interface.
For one, they informed hopeful cyborgs about how the Neuralink system will capture brain signals and send them to a computer. The technology will revolve around a series of flexible electrode threads that will be implanted around neurons. From there, they will be able to read and wirelessly transmit brain signals to a computer.
Unfortunately, the current process for implanting the electrodes is rather painful. Using a computer-guided system, Neuralink uses needles to drill through the skull and place the threads.
However, a better way is on the horizon. The Musk-led company plans to use laser beams to cut tiny holes in the skull. From there, it will be able to implant the electrodes without the pain of a vibrating drill against the brain. They hope this technique will remove a huge barrier stopping people from considering the procedure down the road.
Despite the pending breakthrough, there are still plenty of questions surrounding Neuralink. For example, should humans be connected to computers at all? If so, would it give the wealthy who can afford the procedure an insurmountable advantage over those who can’t?
In the words of the iconic Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park), “Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
The idea applies to manipulating fictional dinosaur DNA just as much as it does to Neuralink. For the past few years, the team behind it has simply been working to see if merging a human brain to a computer is possible.
However, it is looking more and more likely that the dream will become a reality before long. This means it is time to start wrestling with the tough questions surrounding such world-changing tech.
Could merging with a computer become as necessary as upgrading a smartphone for anyone wanting to keep up with society? As Neuralink’s electrodes come closer to integrating with humanity, there will be plenty of big questions that need answers first.