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28 June 2017

Elon Musk’s Neuralink – What You Should Know

After months of speculation, tech entrepreneur Elon Musk has confirmed the existence of Neuralink, his brain-computer interface venture. The SpaceX and Tesla CEO’s new company, which is still in the early stages of development, aims to link humans with AI. At Kohli Ventures we understand the potential for developments in technology to revolutionise the way we interact with the world around us. Here, we explore how, why and when this might happen.

What is Neuralink?

Neuralink’s central aim is to create miniature devices that can be implanted directly into the human brain. It is hoped that these devices will allow human beings to merge with software and communicate their thoughts directly to computers and to each other. This direct link between computers and the human brain is referred to by some as a neural lace, a term originally created by science fiction novelist Iain M Banks. Neuralink aims to lift the idea of the neural lace out of fiction and into reality.

What does it hope to achieve?

By making interaction and communication with technology instantaneous, Neuralink aims for humans to keep pace with the growth of artificial intelligence. Musk has spoken in the past about the potential dangers of increasingly developed AI, saying that humans risk becoming irrelevant unless they merged with machines. Neuralink’s neural lace is a method by which humans can become a part of these technological advances rather than being left behind by them.

Neuralink hopes that its implants will offer improved memory and cognition and allow for direct interfacing with computer devices. Basic stimulating devices inside the skull are already used in small numbers of medical patients to ameliorate the effects of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s. Neuralink’s proposed implants could offer a more effective and complex method of tackling these diseases.

When will this happen?

Musk has so far avoided proposing a timeframe for Neuralink’s work, though he hopes to bring a device that helps with severe brain injuries to market in roughly four years. The company is still in the earliest stages of development and has very little public profile.

The hurdles facing Neuralink are multiple and significant. Musk’s ambitious plan requires major advancements in several areas of technology and science before it can conceivably be made a reality. It will be necessary to reach a more developed understanding of how neurons in the human brain communicate if the implants are to work as intended. Neuralink will also have to find non-invasive methods of inserting its implants in order to make them compatible with the human body. People may also prove initially resistant to the concept of having technological devices inserted into their brains.

The range of complex issues that Neuralink needs to navigate in order to merge humans with AI suggest that Musk’s new venture is a long-term project. Although its potential is enormous, it may prove to be a long time before Neuralink’s neural lace becomes a part of our everyday lives.