What is Neuralink?

Neuralink is the latest business venture of multibillionaire and entrepreneur Elon Musk, developing technology to help advance human cognitive thinking.

The modern-day world has seen a colossal shift into the digital; the stationary desktop computer redesigned to sit on the tops of our laps, the palm of our hand, and more recently now wrapped around our wrists. With every new development quite literally furthering our connection to technology, there has been much anticipation as to the next big step within the industry, Elon Musk’s Neuralink having the potential to be just that.

Through this piece, TechRound will be exploring Elon Musk’s latest business venture Neuralink, and what this project could mean for human cognitive thought. For more on the latest news in startup and tech, please click here.

So, what is Neuralink?

Whilst technology has very much changed our world for the better, as it becomes increasingly more sophisticated concerns have been raised as to its influence, and subsequent power within society. This technological takeover has been a popular topic explored by various different outlets of contemporary culture; with films such as I, Robot and Ex Machina reflecting the uncertainties that surround such advanced developments. More recently, this reflection appears to have manifested in Elon Musk’s latest project Neuralink, which strives to ensure humans can compete with the rapid advancements in AI technology by “add[ing] an AI layer” ourselves.

Although there have only been few details on the actual technology itself, from what has been announced, the project is developing a brain-computer interface to help improve human cognitive thinking. The piece has been detailed on the Neuralink website as “ultra high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect humans and computers”.

How did Neuralink start?

Founded in 2015 by neurotech researchers Professor Pedram Mohseni and Rudolph J. Nudo, Neuralink was developed as a device to help those who were suffering from brain injuries. At the start, there was minimal interest from investors, however in 2016 an unknown investor (later turning out to be Elon Musk) purchased the rights to the project’s name.

Musk announced the backing of Neuralink in 2017, stating that the goal of this brain-machine interface venture was to fuse man and machine, merging human intelligence to that of artificial intelligence in order to advance the capabilities of human cognitive thinking.

The entrepreneur claimed that without such advances as this, human intellect within the AI world will equate to that of a house pet, stating that: “I don’t love the idea of being a house cat, but what’s the solution? I think one of the solutions that seems maybe the best is to add an AI layer.”

Musk recently discussed his inspiration behind the project, making the following comments on the Joe Rogan Experience:

“How much smarter are you with a phone or computer or without? You’re vastly smarter, actually. You can answer any question pretty much instantly. You can remember flawlessly. Your phone can remember videos [and] pictures perfectly. Your phone is already an extension of you. You’re already a cyborg. Most people don’t realise you’re already a cyborg. It’s just that the data rate, it’s slow, very slow. It’s like a tiny straw of information flow between your biological self and your digital self. We need to make that tiny straw like a giant river, a huge, high-bandwidth interface.”

What does this mean for human cognition?

The project is still being kept fairly under wraps, however reports have been made of an unpublished paper written by researchers in the Neuralink team. This paper has been claimed to depict the brain-machine interface, otherwise known as a “neural lace”, as being inserted into a person’s skull, forming a structured body of electrodes that can keep track of its user’s brain functions.

Whilst announcements to such potentially ground-breaking advancements in human intelligence do reflect how close the industry is to making its next big digitised step in human-tech integration, the merging of human intelligence to that of AI could be something still very much for the future; with co-founder of the initial Neuralink concept Professor Pedram Mohseni commenting:

“we are at least 10 to 15 years away from the cognitive enhancement goals in healthy, able-bodied subjects. It certainly appears to be, from the more immediate goals of Neuralink, that the neurotechnology focus will continue to be on patients with various neurological injuries or diseases”

Whether Musk’s latest project will open humankind up to an advanced level of cognitive thought or not, and what the implications of this will be, what can be said is that Neuralink holds potential to be the next big push in fusing technology to humankind.