The serial entrepreneur who commercialized electric cars with Tesla and is aiming for the colonization of Mars with his SpaceX project hopes to create a brain-to-computer interface that could treat chronic medical conditions.
Yesterday, the South African born Canadian inventor and investor teased followers with a tweet that his company, Neuralink, would be coming out soon.
Long Neuralink piece coming out on @waitbutwhy in about a week. Difficult to dedicate the time, but existential risk is too high not to.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 28, 2017
At the moment not much is known about the U.S. startup except for tidbits of info on the Internet stating that it is developing “implantable” human-computer interfaces such as a “neural lace.” A link to the company, at least, offers an email address that suggests the Neuralink has some job openings.
Hacking the brain
At the Code Conference last year, Musk described a neural lace as something that could be surgically connected to a human brain. This interface would allow people to interact with computers without using traditional interfaces such as keyboards, trackpads, or mice.
A Wall Street Journal report said the technology could push forward the search for treatment of conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, and severe depressive disorder.
There are already therapies which use electrodes being connected to the brain to treat symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, which Neuralink might be able to build on.
Musk is not alone experimenting on hacking the human brain and exploring the possibilities of brain-computer interfaces.
Bryan Johnson, co-founder of Web payments system company Braintree, a subsidiary of PayPal, spoke to the Verge recently about his own work on enhancing the brain.
Johnson invested $100 million on a new startup Kernel “to enhance human intelligence” and also treat diseases.
His company is building a tiny chip which can be implanted in the human brain to help people who are dealing with the neurological ravages caused by concussions, strokes, or Alzheimer’s disease.
“We know if we put a chip in the brain and release electrical signals, that we can ameliorate symptoms of Parkinson’s. This has been done for spinal cord pain, obesity, anorexia… what hasn’t been done is the reading and writing of neural code,” Johnson told the Verge.
There is also a potential that this neuroprosthetic can one day improve our memory, intelligence, and cognitive abilities.
Bio-hacking becomes mainstream
Bio-hacking has been described as the act of “exploiting genetic material experimentally, free from standard norms and limited expectations, for either purposes benefitting mankind, or those of a criminal nature.”
Bio-hackers are altering the biology of our bodies and using technology world’s hacker ethics. In a 2015 article, Huffington Post Canada cited the early work of Steve Mann, a tenured professor at the University of Toronto, on wearable technology.
In the early 1980s Mann enhance his vision and ability to capture and process image using a wearable device. He was dismissed as the “lunatic fringe” by MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte, according to the article. Today, devices such as the FitBit, the Apple Watch, and Microsoft’s HoloLens are very much in demand.
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