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Elon Musk's Neuralink hopes to trial brain chip implants in 2020

Elon Musk speaks onstage at the Elon Musk in Conversation with Todd Howard panel during E3 2019 at the Novo Theatre on June 13, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
Photo: Charley Gallay/Getty Images for E3/Entertainment Software Association

Elon Musk said Tuesday night his company Neuralink "aspirationally" hopes to start trials next year on directly connecting people's brains to computers.

Details: Musk said at the live-streamed San Francisco event that the team had begun testing the brain-reading "threads" on animals. "A monkey has been able to control the computer with his brain," he said. A key goal of the team is to one day effectively treat brain disorders with a chip.

"All animal procedures were performed in accordance with the National Research Council’s Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals and were approved by the Neuralink Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee."

The big picture: Neuralink has devised electrodes to be embedded in the brain using tiny insulated "threads" that are much smaller than a human hair to pass through tissue and withstand degradation, per The Verge. For the time being, the company must use surgeons to drill holes through the skull to implant the threads, the New York Times notes.

What's next? Musk said he hoped to find a way for the brain to "merge" with artificial intelligence, most likely through tiny wireless chips implanted in the brain using a "sewing machine-like" robot, with a goal of securing "humanity's future as a civilization relative to AI."

"This is going to sound pretty weird, but ultimately, we will achieve symbiosis with artificial intelligence. This is not a mandatory thing. This is a thing you can choose to have if you want. This is something that I think will be really important on a civilization-level scale."

The bottom line: Although Musk said the team isn't far off from implanting prototypes, it will take a "long time" for Neuralink to achieve its goals, he acknowledged, noting that getting federal approval for the neural implants would be difficult.

Go deeper: Elon Musk: Humans must merge with machines