Complex Made Simple

Neuralink takes human microchipping to the next level, potentially assisting with disabilities

Elon Musk is expanding his investments, venturing into the betterment of the human brain itself with his firm Neuralink.

Neuralink will embed "threads" into the human brain Neuralink's tech could help solve disabilities and restore motor function Human testing could begin as early as 2020

Neuralink, Elon Musk’s under spoken biotech firm, came out to the public last month to provide an update on their progress, goals and vision. Their main project? A set of complex microchips that embed into the brain through “threads” thinner than hair, proving less invasive then existing brain-machine interfaces (BMIs)

These chips are connected to a USB-C output outlet, which when connected by cable provides “full-bandwidth data streaming from the device, recording from all channels simultaneously,” according to the Neuralink white paper. Future updates to the tech seek to introduce wireless functionality. 

Neuralink’s goal is to allow people with disabilities to regain, or replace, their missing functions. From an amputee moving a robotic arm with his brain, to potentially restoring the motor functions of a paralyzed patient, the company is envisioning great things. 

“…Brain ailments of all kinds, whether it’s an accident, or congenital… or any kind of spinal disorder… we can solve that with a chip,” Musk said. 

At the same time, Neuralink will also allow for more understated interactions with devices such as a mouse, a keyboard, or a phone. 

“Ultimately, we can do full brain-machine interfaces where we can achieve a sort of symbiosis with AI,” Musk said. 

In essence, it’s about improving the brain-machine interface to make it more seamless and efficient. He gives an anecdote about how our output speed when it comes to typing into a PC, for example, is limited by how fast we can type, whereas our input speed is quite fast when you consider things like vision through the eyes. Neuralink will address this gap to where you can type 40 words per minute just by thinking them, he revealed.

As for when human trials will begin, he estimated a 2020 date. 

“A monkey has been able to control a computer with its brain [using Neuralink’s tech],” Musk stated. Several rats have also been used in testing, where the Neuralink threads provide readings of the animals’ brains. 

Of course, this is all still a ways ahead. 

“All this will occur quite slowly,” Musk notes. “I do emphasize that [this] isn’t going to be [happening] suddenly, [where] Neuralink will have this incredible ‘neural lace’ and start taking over people’s brains.”

“It will take a long time,” he reiterated with a chuckle. 

This tech is certainly ground-breaking, but have we considered the ramifications of such technology? In this article, AMEinfo explores current implementations of microchips in humans, and the outcome of such tech.