Elon Musk has said an update on the progress of his Neuralink implant devices, which connects a computer directly in to the brain, is coming next month.
Neuralink aims to develop ultra-high bandwidth brain-computer interfaces, and in a tweet Musk said 28 August will see the first update to Neuralink since announcing the brain-machine interface project in 2017.
When Musk revealed Neuralink, he hyped the technology as an answer to the threat of artificial intelligence, which he said presented an “existential risk” to humans.
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Last year, the company shed some light on what it’s working on after updating its sparse website with a few details about job vacancies.
Musk thinks his direct brain-to-machine interface — or “neural lace” — would help humans avoid becoming “house cats” to artificial intelligence. Humans, like computers, could be updated with additional intelligence in the future. But in the short term, he thinks Neuralink technology can help treat conditions such as epilepsy, depression and spinal injuries.
After promoting the August 28 update on Twitter, he’s since answered some questions about what it might entail.
“If you can’t beat em, join em,” he tweeted cryptically yesterday in reference to Neuralink’s mission statement.
“AI symbiosis while u wait,” he added.
But today, he clarified that Neuralink’s first target is medical assistance: “helping with dire brain injuries is our first priority,” he wrote.
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He also gave his thoughts on whether Neuralink technology could be used to rewire parts of the brain responsible for causing addiction or depression.
“For sure. This is both great & terrifying. Everything we’ve ever sensed or thought has been electrical signals. The early universe was just a soup of quarks & leptons. How did a very small piece of the Universe start to think of itself as sentient?” wrote Musk.
Last year, Musk said 2020 would be the year Neuralink would conduct tests with human subjects after proclaiming that “a monkey has been able to control a computer with his brain”.
Neuralink’s technology works by drilling small holes into the brain and inserting thread-like electrodes that avoid blood vessels. As with Tesla’s push into Level 5 fully autonomous driving, which he stresses depends on regulatory approval, Musk says gaining approval from the US Food and Drug Administration “is quite difficult”.