Jul 17, 2019

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

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

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Elon Musk's plan to merge with AI

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

For 5 years, Elon Musk has been warning about apocalyptic runaway AI, calling it more dangerous than nukes. To stave off his feared future, in 2016 he launched Neuralink, a company to create cyborgs with the express mission of getting ahead of superhuman intelligence.

What's happening: Now, Musk says he has charted the long path to merging man and machine. In an elaborate presentation Tuesday night, he said his company has installed brain–computer links in rats and monkeys and aims to put them inside human skulls next year.

Go deeperArrowJul 18, 2019

Podcast: Elon Musk's plan to merge man and machine

Elon Musk on Tuesday revealed new details about Neuralink, his brain-computer interface company that first aims to help those with brain injuries and then protect humanity from AI. Dan and Axios' Kaveh Waddell discuss.

Go deeper: Elon Musk's Neuralink computer brain implant plan

Keep ReadingArrowJul 18, 2019

The tricky business of improving human brains

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Connecting brains directly to machines has helped paralyzed people begin to speak and amputees feed themselves again — early steps toward the miraculous cures that have been the main focus of the neurotechnology field.

But a smaller group of researchers and startups — plus the Pentagon — is working toward an even longer-term goal fraught with scientific and moral hurdles. They plan to improve on healthy humans, in a bid to pick up where evolution left off.

Go deeperArrowJul 25, 2019