Elon Musk wants to link brains directly to machines

Jul 18, 2019

ELON MUSK, perhaps the world’s most famous entrepreneur, is sometimes referred to as “the Trump of technology”—not for political reasons, but because of his habit of making, at short notice, spectacular pronouncements that stretch the bounds of credibility. On July 16th he was at it again, unveiling a new type of brain-machine interface (BMI). If human beings do not enter a symbiosis with artificial intelligence (AI), he declared, they are sure to be left behind. And he, the announcement implied, was going to be the man who stopped that happening.

Connecting brains directly to machines is a long-standing aspiration. And it is already happening, albeit in a crude way. In deep-brain stimulation, for example, neurosurgeons implant a few electrodes into a patient’s brain in order to treat Parkinson’s disease. Utah arrays, collections of 100 conductive silicon needles, are now employed experimentally to record brain waves. A team at the University of Washington has built a “brain-to-brain network” that allows people to play games with each other using just their thoughts. And researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, have captured neural signals from people as they talk, and have then turned that information, via a computer, into intelligible speech.

As with all things Musk-related, Neuralink is much more...

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