November 6, 2019

What if you could control your phone or computer without even moving a muscle? What if you could control these devices using your brain? What if you could restore speech and vision to people who have lost these abilities from severe brain injuries? What if you could talk to other people using only your brain? This idea isn’t the newest episode of Black Mirror, but a reality in development by Neuralink. Neuralink is a company that has been developing technology in which we can control technology with our brains.


This reality would only be possible through a surgical implant placed into your brain, but it is not as frightening as you would initially assume. The device consists of threads that can read the activity between neurons. These threads are less than 1/10th the thickness of an average human hair and would be placed into your brain using a highly accurate and precise robot surgeon. The procedure itself is much less obtrusive than modern neurosurgery is, without the need for anesthetics, shaving the head of the patient, or any other complications that come with a human surgeon. The idea is to have a procedure similar to something like Lasik eye surgery.


One of the main philosophies of Neuralink, from Elon Musk, is “to achieve a symbiosis with artificial intelligence.” It is so that humans can keep up with developing the technology that would otherwise replace us. The goal is to reduce the “bandwidth” that it takes to interact with technology. The bandwidth is the amount of information that we can receive for a certain amount of time. The closer we are connected to machines, the smaller this bandwidth becomes. We are already connected to machines through our phones, thus receiving information has never been quicker. Still, this can be improved upon. A brain implant would be the next step in how we receive information. Elon Musk believes that this technology has the potential to eventually help with things like speech and vision to people with severe brain injuries. There is the potential to restore cognitive abilities, the potential to allow people to control computers with their minds, and there is even the potential to eventually communicate with one another using our brains and the technology.


The technology is currently under development and is not yet fully capable of the tasks mentioned. Neuralink is attempting to get FDA approval with the procedure, and they will potentially start human testing by the end of 2020. There have already been trials done with animals that were in accordance with ethical standards in place. This newfound technology raises many ethical concerns. It seems dystopian to know that there may be a computer owned by a corporation inside your brain. It will come with a lot of controversies, and there will be a need for government regulation. Is this the future that we want to live in? Whether we like it or not, this technology is already paving the way for our future.


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