As a journalist, I’m supposed to approach news stories with an unbiased attitude. Just the facts, ma’am. But sometimes, that’s not possible. When it comes to Elon Musk and Neuralink’s desire to implant tech in our heads, I can only say NOPE. HECK NO. But hey, human trials are just six months away.
I will try, however, to get into the facts of the story with some seriousness. Neuralink, if you’re unfamiliar, is one of Elon Musk’s many companies. And in some ways, you could almost view it as a crossroads between those companies. If Tesla (his EV company) is a technology that we get into, and Twitter (his social media company) is a technology that broadcasts our thoughts, then Neuralink is a technology that gets into us and broadcasts our thoughts.
No seriously. The idea here is that Neuralink will implant an interface device into your skull—and into your brain—that can wirelessly connect to computers. You could then think at a computer to type out messages.
To start with, the company already mentioned releasing an iOS app that could Bluetooth connect to the “Link” device in your head to allow you “wireless” and “hands-free” control. Presumably, you’d be holding the phone while not using your fingers to type on it, so you could see that it worked correctly. That might be a boon to someone with disabilities that prevent the usual method of typing messages, but then again, other options already exist and don’t require brain surgery.
At an event last night, Musk showed off the devices implanted in monkeys. The monkeys typed out phrases on a computer without using their hands or fingers. Now, to be clear, the monkeys didn’t know what they were typing and didn’t think the phrases themselves. Instead, they moved around a cursor to click on highlighted letters and words—they were guided to the phrase. But still, as Musk put it, they “telepathically” moved the cursor.
The company also showed that the monkey had already trained to sit under wireless chargers to charge the Link devices. Because that’s right, now your head needs wireless charging too. Every night you’d put your watch on its wireless charger, your phone on its wireless charger, and your head in its wireless charger. That sounds amazing.
Getting the Link installed involves robotic surgery to remove a piece of your skull and insert 64 “hair-thin” threads into your brain. The LINK device, which resembles a stack of coins, would sit flush with your skull. Or, as Musk put it, “it’s like replacing a piece of your skull with a smartwatch, for lack of a better analogy.”
Eventually, Musk says the device could be used to treat brain disorders. But for now, the focus is recruitment; they need more talent to develop the devices and easier-to-reach goals like typing on a keyboard. Musk claims the company submitted “most” of the necessary paperwork to the FDA to start human trials, and those could start in the next six months.
But I don’t know about you; there’s no way I’d be willing to replace a piece of my skull with tech that will surely become outdated. Musk did say that it’s possible to upgrade the Link and even showed one Money where that had already been done. But if you think upgrading your iPhone every couple of years is too expensive, imagine paying for robot surgery to upgrade telepathic thinky device… again. And what happens if it doesn’t work? How do you troubleshoot your head?
And if, down the road, you decide the device wasn’t worth the effort, getting that chunk of skull back isn’t going to be easy peasy. While a lot of the talk revolved around how it could help disabled people, that possibility is far down the road and not guaranteed. Installing the tech is far easier than manipulating the brain. And Musk himself said he planned to have one installed in the future. But if you’re asking me? Nope. Nope. Nope nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope.
via The Verge