Elon Musk to show off working brain-hacking device
Elon Musk is expected to demonstrate a functioning brain-machine interface as part of his ambitious plans to give people superhuman powers.
His brain-hacking company, Neuralink, called for human trials to start last year.
The interface could allow people with neurological conditions to control phones or computers with their mind.
But the long-term ambition is to usher in an era of what Musk calls “superhuman cognition”.
People need to merge with artificial intelligence, he says, in part to avoid a scenario where AI becomes so powerful that it destroys the human race.
The device the company is developing consists of a tiny probe containing more than 3,000 electrodes connected to flexible wires thinner than a human hair, capable of monitoring the activity of 1,000 brain neurons.
He also built a “neurosurgical robot” which is said to insert 192 electrodes into the brain every minute.
Jennifer Collinger, assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Pittsburgh, described what Mr. Musk was trying to do as “truly disruptive technology in a difficult space of medical technology.”
“Neuralink has significant resources and a team of scientists, engineers and doctors who work critically towards a common goal, which gives them a great chance for success,” he said.
But he added: “Even with these resources, medical device development takes time and safety must be a top priority, so I suspect the process may take longer than stated as a goal.”
Ari Benjamin, of the University of Pennsylvania’s Kording Lab, told BBC News that the real obstacle to the technology may be the simple complexity of the human brain.
“Once they have the recordings, Neuralink will need to decode them and one day they will hit the barrier which is our lack of basic understanding of how the brain works, no matter how many neurons they record from.
“Decoding goals and movement plans is difficult when you don’t understand the neural code in which those things are communicated.”
Musk’s companies SpaceX and Tesla have captured the public’s imagination with their attempts to drive advancement in space flight and electric vehicles, respectively.