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This will blow your mind 🤯 | On Neurolink, FaceApp and Apollo11

On My Mind
This will blow your mind 🤯 | On Neurolink, FaceApp and Apollo11
By Martin Wiesemborski • Issue #13 • View online
📱➡️🧠 The main story this week is about Neuralink, a company founded by Elon Musk with the ambitious goal of developing a powerful new brain-machine-Interface (BMI). After several years of working in secret, they finally revealed first details on their current status, roadmap and vision. 
👱🏻‍♂️➡️👴🏻 FaceApp, the much hyped app that everyone used to see how they will look like in the future, might provide ‘the Russians’ with an insane amount of private information
🚀➡️🌕 50 years ago, the Apollo 11 mission started - and for the first time humans walked on the moon. A lot of memories.

Welcome to the Matrix, Neo 💊
Ever felt like your thoughts are running faster than your mouth can physically form the words to speak? Or even worse: Typing on a smartphone - it is just frustratingly slow. That’s because our brain works way faster than our body is capable of moving, especially our thumb. What if you wouldn’t need your thumb to move your thoughts from your brain to your smartphone? Sounds crazy futuristic, right? 
Well, it’s actually something a company called Neuralink is actively working on right now.
What is Neuralink?
Neuralink is a startup that is co-founded (and primarily funded) by Elon Musk and run by co-founder Max Hodak. Its mission is not only to improve the connection between our brain and body to unlock the full potential of our brain but to cure neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer or Parkinson. And eventually, in a not so distant future, combine AI with our human mind in what Musk calls ‚a sort of symbiosis with artificial intelligence‘
It’s an incredible endeavor and, if successful, something that will change our world forever. For some technological breakthroughs it’s hard to predict the impact they will have on the world. For Neuralink, it’s crazy to just start to think about possible outcomes. 
What does Neuralink do?
For now, however, the aim is primarily medical. During the presentation on Wednesday morning (UTC+1) Musk and his team shared their current work on ‚threads‘. Threads are what Neuralink plans to insert into a human brain and they are supposed to be much less damaging to the surrounding brain tissue than current methods. These threads are inserted into the brain by a robot in a way that reminds of sewing, and to access the brain you need to drill small holes in the skull. Eventually, the drilling part will be replaced by lasers, which are much more precise.
The threads are connected via wires to a chip called N1 that sits right behind the ear. It’s here where most of the magic aka data analysis happens. Only a small amount of data is then transferred wirelessly to your iPhone. Yupp, there’s an app for that. (It even has a button called ‚Learn new skill‘). Based on this data, Neuralink wants to better understand how the brain works, especially for e.g. Alzheimer patients, to improve their therapy. 
4 threads are wired to the chip who transmits the data to a little device behind the ear
4 threads are wired to the chip who transmits the data to a little device behind the ear
Neuralinks roadmap
In many ways, this was a very typical Musk presentation: a dreamy long-term vision (AI symbiosis and telepathy), a concrete mid-term roadmap and a clear plan to execute on in the short-term to reach these more ambitious goals. Just like with rockets and electric cars, Musk didn’t come up with the original idea (a lot of research has happened in this field in the last decades) - but he is approaching these ideas with unmatched ambition and almost brute-force methods. Something Hodak briefly mentioned on stage:
‚Elon has this incredible optimism, where he will pierce through these imagined constraints and show you that really a lot more is possible that you really think is today‘.
Neuralink only started in 2017 but in a paper they released, demonstrated a 10x improvement in sensor data compared to what’s commercially available right now. This is enabled by an incredibly talented team from all fields, from software development to engineers who work on custom chips, material scientists who need to invent a coating that prevents corrosions for many many years on the threads implemented in the brain, to medical experts and people working on robotics. 
One of the main reasons Neuralink opened the doors and shared their progress is actually to attracted new talent and pretty much the only thing you can find on their website right now is a job board. 
In a seemingly joking way, Musk told the audience ‚the monkey is out of the bag‘, teasing that a test lab monkey (unfortunately animal testing is necessary to get FCA approval) was already able to control a computer with his mind. And first human testing is supposed the start at the end of next year. It will be a long journey, but the end result might be incredible. 
Once again, I can only highly recommend watching the whole presentation and learn about on-chip spike detection, analog pixels and so much more stuff you wont understand but feel incredibly excited about. Or the amazing Wait But Why article from 2 years ago, explaining the whole thing in more detail. Link below
Further reading
🚀 Fly me to the moon 🌕
I’m a huge space nerd, you know that and my LEGO Saturn V rocket proves it. And so this week was a very special one for me. 50 years ago, the Apollo 11 mission started. A few days later, Neil Armstrong was the first human to set foot on the moon. In honor of this incredible achievement and memory, a bunch of cool stuff happened this week. 
My two favorites: The source code of the onboard computer was released on GitHub and CBS broadcasted the original Apollo 11 coverage, including commercials.
Luis Hernandez
CBS is live broadcasting the ENTIRETY of the Apollo 11 launch coverage, including all of the commercials, local news, and other interstitials. its the greatest contiguous window I've ever seen into 1960s television. The graphic design of the era destroys anything from 2019.
The entire Apollo 11 computer code is available on @github, and it's incredible:

#edchat #apollo11
🇷🇺 From Russia with Love
After Snapchat’s gender-swap and baby face filter, a new face related trend started a few weeks ago: Aging. But this trend might come to a sudden end, as the FBI is about to start an investigation into FaceApp, the app that is using ‘AI’ to turns your face into that of a grandpa. 
As it turns out, it’s not only Russian but also has some pretty shady terms of services. So if you don’t want to share so much private information with some dubious company, I would recommend you keep your fingers from this app. 
Justin Reynolds
This is my favorite part of faceapp's terms of service.
One more thing
Apparently there is a World Emoji Day and it happened on Tuesday. To celebrate, Apple released a preview of the upcoming emojis that got approved by the Unicode Consortium in February and that will be included in the version of iOS. Most importantly, there will finally be a sloth emoji! That alone would we worth the celebration. But there are many many more. 
Happy weekend everyone
Happy weekend everyone
Did you enjoy this issue?
Martin Wiesemborski

I'm a freelance UX strategist. Think of this newsletter as everything that is on my mind (hence the name): New and emerging tech and design trends, tools and ideas that I stumble upon and think are worth talking about.

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