Elon Musk's new project Neuralink is possible

Neuralink: Elon Musk demonstrates mini computers for the brain

Elon Musk presents something new. Again. This time it's a pig named Gertrude. In a video presentation on Friday, the entrepreneur demonstrated to Gertrude and two other pigs how the connection between computers and brains should work. She was implanted with a prototype brain chip from Musk's Neuralink company. This enabled nerve impulses to be transmitted to a computer via wireless Bluetooth connections when the pig moved its trunk.

The goal of technology billionaire Elon Musk is even bigger: He wants to create an electronic connection to the human brain. Musk had already presented a prototype of the chip that is supposed to do this last year. Now he showed him in action.

The device, which is supposed to be able to transmit information between human neurons and a smartphone, is round, eight millimeters thick and has a diameter of 23 millimeters. In order to function, it has to be implanted directly into the skull - similar to what is known from parts of the cochlear implant for the deaf. It is said to be connected to nerve cells with ultra-fine wires and to read and send neurological signals. The minicomputer should communicate with an app on the smartphone via Bluetooth. Unlike previous models, it should no longer be visible after implantation.

The battery for this lasts about a day and should be able to be recharged wirelessly. Musk compared the chip to a fitness bracelet, only "with fine wires" in the pig's head.

Neuralink sees potential uses for the technology in the treatment of pain, visual impairment and hearing loss, insomnia, brain damage or injuries to the spinal cord. In the future, the technology could be used to bridge injured nerve tissue so people can walk again, Musk said.

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In the long run, he envisions that anyone who likes could have their device implanted in their skull. According to the entrepreneur, it would then be possible to share thoughts between people without having to express them, or to save or transfer memories to another body or robot. He is aware that this is like an episode of the dystopian science fiction television series Black Mirror sound, said music. But then added: "The future will be strange."

The chip has not yet been tested on humans. Musk said the US agency, the FDA, reportedly classified the Neuralink device as a "breakthrough device" in July, a status that can help expedite approval. This status is not an admission. And the 49-year-old entrepreneur also leaves open when the chip could really be used. In the past he liked to announce ambitious schedules for his companies SpaceX and Tesla that could not always be met.

According to Musk, the aim of the Neuralink presentation was to find new employees for the young company: chemists, surgeons, robot specialists. The start-up, founded in 2016, wants to grow from the current 100 to 10,000 employees.

However, many researchers are skeptical about Musk's announcements about Neuralink. Brain-computer interfaces have been built many times and it is difficult to say how successful the Neuralink project will be, said Christopher James, professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Warwick, UK. Although technology for reading neurological signals has improved, sending commands and processing a lot of different information at the same time is very complex.

Elon Musk is among other things a co-investor in the research company OpenAI, which researches artificial intelligence. For years he has been warning of the potential dangers inherent in the development of artificial intelligence. With this in mind, Musk also presents Neuralink's work as preparation for a future in which artificial intelligence - as he believes - could have overtaken human.

With the text generator GPT-3, Open AI recently presented an application whose capabilities in the production of texts are remarkable. Nevertheless, many observers consider Musk's statements about artificial intelligence to be far exaggerated. Musk has "no idea what he's talking about when he's talking about AI," said Jerome Pesenti, head of Facebook's AI department, to a US television station in May of this year. In response to that statement, Musk tweeted “Facebook sucksSuch reactions are not unusual - one of many reasons why the entrepreneur is quite controversial. Another is the risky maneuvers with which he keeps his company on the verge of ruin.

Others consider Musk to be a visionary serial entrepreneur who founded the electric car manufacturer Tesla and the space company SpaceX, among others. Neuralink is his latest start-up project, it started in 2016. Musk has personally invested $ 100 million in the company.