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.