Ready to connect your mind to an AI?
That future may be closer than you think.
Elon Musk’s recent Neuralink presentation gave us a roadmap for connecting (eventually, perhaps merging) our minds with computers — how we can go from science fiction to science fact.
When I last wrote about Neuralink a year ago, I mentioned that Elon’s main goals for the device were to increase the number of neurons that it could read and write, serve unmet medical needs, and to create an installation procedure that was safe and automated.
Elon’s most recent update suggests that he is well on his way to achieving these goals.
In this blog, I’ll explore:
Let’s dive in.
Neuralink Updates: “A Fitbit in Your Skull”
Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) work by using electronic devices to send signals to the neurons in your brain. Our brains “think” via electricity — vast networks of tiny switches that send signals back and forth in an interwoven dance. For example, this is how hearing aids work.
Neuralink’s latest device can read an order of magnitude more data. The device can read 1,024 channels, gathering data such as inertial measurements, pressure on the brain, and brain temperature. For comparison, current brain-machine technologies that are medically approved can only read about 100 channels of data.
Elon and the Neuralink team demonstrated this process by showcasing a live pig with a Neuralink chip implanted in its brain. As the pig walked on a treadmill or sniffed hay, a screen displayed live data of every firing event of the neurons inside the pig’s brain.
The highlight of the demonstration was that the live brain signals indicating movement matched almost perfectly the predicted signals.
If we can currently do this with pigs (which from a size and complexity standpoint are excellent human analogs), imagine a future where we can predict and possibly restore motion in people who are paralyzed, or in those who suffer from neurological disorders.
Neuralink can also write to neurons. Using an imaging technique called “two-photon microscopy,” the Neuralink team is able to observe bundles of neurons in real time as the device sends electrical signals.
As Elon pointed out, each electrode can influence between 1,000 and 10,000 neurons. Multiplied by a thousand electrodes, each device can influence 10 million neurons. And with multiple devices, we could begin to influence tens of millions of neurons.
A Fitbit in Your Skull
You get all that power from a device the size of a coin.
The first generation of Neuralink that Elon presented last year was a simple, behind-the-ear device. But with this new version, Neuralink has evolved from a headset to a chip implanted in the head. Once it’s implanted, there is no way to tell if someone is using a Neuralink — unlike the previous model.
The chips are called Links, and each one has a diameter of 23mm and a thickness of 8mm. They connect to the brain via tiny wires.
Neuralink’s goal is to make these chips as easy (and fast) to install as LASIK. Using a robotic surgeon, the procedure is estimated to take under an hour, and won’t require any general anesthesia.
And once implanted, the chip would have a twelve-hour battery before the user would need to wirelessly charge it… just like juicing-up your phone.
In the not-too-distant future, devices like Neuralink may be used to cure neuro-degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s Disease, and Parkinson’s. Imagine someone who’s elderly being able to remain sharp and present for decades longer, instead of having their mental faculties eroded by an aging brain.
Or maybe you’ll use your Neuralink App to “get happy” or to enhance meditation or sleep. Maybe you’ll use it to reduce hunger levels, eliminate pain or increase your alertness. After all, it’s all about your neuro-chemistry and once you can dial that up or down, it gives you command override.
Other possibilities? What about telepathy between yourself and someone else with a Neuralink implant? Or the ability to google by thinking? Or ultimately, the ability to interface with a remote robot (avatar), moving its limbs by thinking, and sensing what it touches…
As Elon noted in his presentation, the success of rudimentary methods such as deep brain stimulation gives us reason to believe that this next generation of BCIs will have ever-more effective medical applications.
In a supportive nod to these impressive possibilities, the US FDA recently gave Neuralink its Breakthrough Device Designation.
In a world with advancing AI, the best choice for humans is to become symbiotic with machines. Not humans versus AI, but humans working with AI.
As I wrote about in The Future is Faster, connecting our minds to machines will not be business as usual. It will represent a radical shift in our ability to communicate, think, and work.
Imagine connecting your mind to the cloud. Suddenly, the entirety of human knowledge is accessible in an instant. With this ability, what kinds of novel and profound theories and innovations will emerge? What new businesses will we create?
Now imagine that billions of people have this ability.
We’re paving the way for what could be the most historic acceleration of progress and technological innovation in history.
The future of BCIs is exponential and accelerating.
My friend and mentor Ray Kurzweil predicts that we’ll seamlessly connect our brains to the cloud by 2035.
Elon’s progress with Neuralink seems to make this prediction more of a possibility. He acknowledged that a key objective of his presentation was to inspire the next generation engineers, entrepreneurs, and scientists to join him in creating the future of BCIs.
If you’re an ambitious entrepreneur interested in this field and excited by the progress we’ve made so far, there’s no better time than the present to get involved.
And if this is a topic that interests you, consider joining me in my exponential mastermind group ( Abundance360 )… We’ll be covering this topic in the coming months.
Originally published at https://www.diamandis.com.