Elon Musk to show off working brain-hacking device

Elon Musk to show off working brain-hacking device

Brain with interface

copyright of the imageGetty Images

image captionGetting the human brain to communicate with machines is an ambitious goal

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.

But Friday’s demonstration will involve a robot and “neurons firing in real time,” a series of

tweets reveals.

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.

Founded in 2017, Neuralink worked hard to recruit scientists, something Mr. Musk was still advertising on Twitter last month.

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.

In its latest update, more than a year ago, the company said it had tested a monkey that had been able to control a computer with its brain.

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.”

multimedia captionMeet the man who inspired Robert Downey Jr’s version of Iron Man

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.

But both also demonstrate the entrepreneur’s habit of making bold statements about projects that end up taking a lot longer than expected.

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