Elon Musk -based Neuralink has made headlines in recent years for the development of a new type of interface between the human brain and computing devices. On Friday, the company provided a demo of the technology, and Musk kicked off the demo by stating that the purpose of the entire presentation was to recruit – not to raise funds or other promotional activities.
"We're not trying to raise money or do anything else, but the main purpose is to convince great people to work at Neuralink and help us make the product happen – make it affordable and reliable and so, that everyone who does it wants you to have one, ”he said.
Musk went on to say that the reason he wants to make it widely available is because almost everyone will experience a neurological problem over time, including memory loss, anxiety, brain damage, depression, and a long list of other illnesses. Of course, there is no clear evidence that any of these long problems can be "solved" quickly and easily with a single solution. Hence, it is a little difficult to consider this as a reasonable end goal for the company.
The goal may be ambitious – and definitely the subject of much ethical and medical debates – but the technology Musk actually demonstrated was much less. Musk first noticed that Neuralink had changed the design since it was unveiled last year, with a smaller profile for physical devices that he said could be completely hidden under the hair once installed in the skull. He had a physical device in hand to show his size.
Musk then drew the audience's attention to three pigs that were present in nearby stables with traders nearby. The three pigs were one that was untreated, the second (“Gertrude”) was installed with a Neuralink device called a “Link”, and the third had one previously installed but subsequently removed. Musk initially struggled to get Gertrude to come out and perform for the small, socially aloof crowd (who sat at bar-high tables like they were in a comedy club). Eventually, however, he skipped Gertrude to show that the pig that had their link removed was very healthy and looked normal.
Returning to Gertrude, Musk showed a display that played a sound and showed a visual tip if the link detected Gertrude's snout making contact with something while she was looking for food.
"The first device reads / writes about 1024 channels on each channel. The battery life is all day, charges overnight, and has a pretty long range so you can transfer the range to your phone," Musk said. "I should say this is an important thing as this would connect to your phone and the application would be on your phone and the link would communicate to the device in your head using essentially bluetooth power."
Musk concluded the prepped portion of the presentation by stating that the company received the Breakthrough Device award from the US Food and Drug Administration in July and that the company “is preparing for the first human implantation soon by the time necessary permits and further safety tests are available. ”
While the device shown was just a reader receiving data from the signals in the pig's brain, it is planned to provide both reading and writing functions in order to be able to address neurological problems as mentioned above. Musk also pointed out that he was showing the pig whose implant had been safely removed because there were plans to update the hardware over time as better versions become available. Ultimately, Musk said during a later Q&A that Neuralink hopes to bring costs down to tens of thousands of dollars with minimal hardware costs, even in terms of modern handheld devices.
Musk actually referred to the Neuralink devices as “Fitbit in your skull with tiny wires ”in several places during the presentation, which, depending on your perspective, actually seems like a rather dystopian statement. After all, the skills he teased included the ability to conjure up your Tesla with a thought and interfaces for controlling video games – including complete control over Starcraft. Musk also said that in the future he expected that people with Link would be able to "save and play back memories," adding that "This is obviously sounds increasingly to like a black mirror Episode but well i think they can predict pretty well. "He even went so far as to say that" you could possibly download (memories) into a robot body ".
The first clinical trial will focus on people with paraplegia or quadriplegia resulting from an injury to the spinal cord. For a first attempt, it is planned to enroll a "small number" of these people to test the effectiveness and safety of the technology.
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