TESLA ENTREPRENEUR and non-alien Elon Musk is reportedly working on a new venture called Neuralink, with the aim of creating an interface between artificial intelligence (AI) and the human brain.
The new company is largely the stuff of rumour, with the Wall Street Journal quoting unnamed sources. However, the paper notes, a medical research company called Neuralink was set up in California last July.
What's more, Musk has hinted at his interest in this field ("neural lace" as he calls it) before, telling an audience in Dubai last year: "Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence," and adding that: "It's mostly about the bandwidth, the speed of the connection between your brain and the digital version of yourself, particularly output."
Moreover, Musk's new ventures, be they giant battery factories, the SpaceX mission or Hyperloop, have a habit of being leaked to the press quite a while before the first announcement is made.
Musk has yet to comment on the WSJ report. However, he is known to be interested in this field and he certainly wouldn't be the first Silicon Valley mogul with plans to pursue these interests.
Futurist Ray Kurzweil argues that the next step in the evolution of the human neocortex - the outer layer of the brain which is associated with higher thinking, creativity, music, art and science - will be connectivity with the cloud. There will be a cloud-based "synthetic human neocortex" to which we will be able to connect via computers implanted in our heads, which will allow higher levels of abstraction and increased intelligence, he claims.
Another example is Bryan Johnson, previously of PayPal and founder of Kernel, a neuroscience research startup.
"We know if we put a chip in the brain and release electrical signals, that we can ameliorate symptoms of Parkinson's," Johnson told The Verge.
"This has been done for spinal cord pain, obesity, anorexia… what hasn't been done is the reading and writing of neural code."
Johnson believes that ultimately technologies that build on the brain's own processes will make us quicker thinking and more intelligent.
However, the brain is a poorly understood organ, and any progress with decoding its processes - in a similar way that scientists unravelled the mysteries of DNA - are still many years away. While rudimentary brain implants to delay the advance of diseases like Parkinson's and treat anorexia exist today, along with a few early examples of mind-controlled synthetic limbs, brain-computer interfacing technologies face formidable hurdles.
For a start, operating on the brain, especially to implant advanced technology, is very risky, and the attracting volunteers is going to be challenging. µ
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