In this article:
- Neuralink is a Brain-Computer Interface that’s revolutionary for its compact and integrated design.
- While it’s not on the market yet, it might be soon.
- This device can be used to treat mental, physical, and neurological conditions.
- While Neuralink can do a lot of things, it can’t do all the fancy sci-fi stuff you might be imagining (yet).
Neuralink is a brain implant that can computerize our brains. But what does that really mean? What are the benefits of having a computer in our heads? Well, according to Neuralink, there are many potential benefits.
The company claims that the technology, which has not yet hit the market, can potentially treat physical, mental, and neurological disorders, and even replace the smartphone as our primary communication and entertainment device. But with all these potential benefits comes a ton of risk which we’ll discuss later on.
What Is Neuralink?
Neuralink is a brain-computer interface (BCI) company founded by SpaceX and Tesla CEO, Elon Musk (probably hoping to reach his transhumanistic goals). The company’s goal is to develop devices that can be implanted into the human brain to allow communication with computers without clunky wires and computers.
That capability could theoretically help treat neurological disorders, and even improve cognitive skills like memory or attention.
The company was founded in 2016 and is still in its early stages, but it’s already made significant progress in developing the technology. In August of 2019, Neuralink announced that it had successfully implanted a chip into the brain of a monkey who was able to control a computer with its thoughts.
In 2020, Neuralink gave another presentation showing its progress on pigs, and it also showed the device tracking a pig’s snout in real-time. It had also been made more powerful and shrunk to the size of a coin.
Brain-computer interface technology is not new. Medical facilities already have devices that allow patients to operate a computer with their brain, which helps in cases where patients may be recovering from severe injuries and unable to move or speak.
What makes the Neuralink tech different is that it’s smaller and more powerful than the BCI that medical facilities use today, and that in itself is a technological breakthrough.
How Does It Work?
Neuralink implants consist of a small chip that is implanted into the skull with ultra-thin wires called “threads” that connect and monitor a certain brain region. The threads are thinner than a strand of human hair and designed to be as minimally invasive as possible. It’s even possible to remove the implant without any negative effects.
The threads will read brain activity, and the chip will then transfer that data to a computer or smartphone wirelessly via Bluetooth.
The chip itself is battery-powered and charged using a magnetic wireless charger, similar to the MagSafe on iPhones.
What Can the Neuralink Theoretically Do?
As I mentioned earlier, there are many potential benefits of having a Neuralink implant. While some of these benefits are still in the early stages of development, others are much closer to becoming a reality.
One very interesting thing that Neuralink can do is predict a pig’s limb’s movement as demonstrated in this video:
While this is impressive in itself, it’s even more amazing in possible applications. The main goal of Neuralink is to cure paraplegia, tetraplegia, and other neurological disabilities by reading and predicting where your brain wants your limbs to go and transmitting that data to a separate device that will make your paralyzed muscles move by sending out electrical pulses.
It might also be possible to use that data to allow amputees to accurately control their prosthetic or robotic limbs as intuitively as if it was their own limb.
In addition to sending signals from the brain to other parts of the body, Neuralink may eventually be able to send data to your brain, making it possible to treat other disabilities like blindness, deafness, and any sensory loss.
The idea would be to have a camera or microphone as your eyes or ears. Then, the Neuralink would essentially stream that video or audio into your visual or auditory cortex, allowing blind people to see and deaf people to hear.
Better yet, Neuralink can even theoretically replace the smartphone as our main communication and entertainment device. I mean think about it, it’s a device that might be able to stream video and audio directly to our brains, and we can even control that device just by using our thoughts.
If a Neuralink device allowing us to connect to the internet and communicate with our thoughts made its way into real life, it might be the perfect device for the Metaverse.
Of all the potential things that Neuralink might do, my favorite might be the possibility that this device can probably also control hormone levels from our brain.
That means that this coin-sized device could help control addiction, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. And I don’t think that’s all, I’m sure that being able to have a direct link to our brains could help cure many more conditions, diseases, and disabilities than we might think.
In theory, Neuralinks could be used to interface with artificial intelligence and allow humans to keep up with the ever-increasing pace of technological advancement. We could download skills and knowledge, and even upload memories through Neuralinks into the cloud or your phone and other devices.
While this may sound like something out of a science fiction novel, it’s actually not as far-fetched as you’d think. Neuralink and Elon Musk believe that this could be done in the future.
Musk has even said that it might be possible to transfer one’s memories (probably also one’s consciousness) into a new body in the future. While all these things might seem to be an enormous task to accomplish, I think it will be possible in time.
Although transferring our consciousness might be trickier since science has yet to fully grasp what that is, let alone how to recreate or move it. So take that one with a pinch of salt or more.
Present and Future Problems With Neuralink
While we all know that Neuralinks can be used for the greater good by generally helping people live better lives, like any other piece of tech, it can also be used for nefarious and malicious purposes. Here are the biggest problems if Neuralink does succeed.
Hacking and Malfunctions
As with any new technology that connects to the internet, there is always the possibility of it being hacked.
The most obvious way would be to target the device itself and try to gain access to the data that is being transmitted wirelessly. This could be done by either intercepting the signal or by hacking into the computer or smartphone that the Neuralink is connected to.
Another possibility is that someone could hack into the implant itself and gain direct access to the brain.
Both of these methods could be used to control the person’s thoughts and actions or to implant false memories. And since Neuralink can help cure diseases and disabilities, it can also go the other way and induce harm, even death.
And of course, the same thing can occur with malfunctions. I mean, any device is prone to malfunctions, right? So imagine what will happen if the device that your brain might be dependent on, suddenly broke.
The Truth With Neuralink
The truth is that the Neuralink is a bit overhyped. As I said earlier, most of the things the company has done so far aren’t exactly groundbreaking. Sure, the robotic surgeon that will implant the devices is pretty neat. The fact that the device is so tiny and powerful is also amazing.
But right now, the Neuralink is essentially just a BCI (brain-computer interface) and that isn’t really new tech.
While the promise of computerizing our brains and curing diseases is pretty convincing that this is some groundbreaking tech, it really isn’t. Unless Musk can remove the fiction in science-fiction.
Arguments About Humanity
There are a lot of things that we hold important as humans. For many of us, it’s our emotions, memories, and unique skills that take years to learn. But what if a Neuralink and a computer can replicate all that? Are we still human then, or are we becoming pieces of machinery?
That’s probably the biggest thing that’ll dissuade a lot of people from ever using Neuralink or any other device that’ll do the same results. It’ll make the truth questionable. It’ll make schools unnecessary if we can just access any information from our brains. It’ll also make emotions and real-life relationships and a lot of other things meaningless if we can experience the same things by using a computer.
At this point, I think we shouldn’t push these things too much to the point that we become too dependent on them. But still, I think this shouldn’t dissuade us from developing this tech to solve and cure important diseases. That way, we keep our humanity and improve the lives of the sick and the disabled.
Even with all the issues I mentioned, this is still an exciting time for Neuralink and the science of BCI as a whole. I can’t wait to see what new applications of this technology will be discovered in the years to come. And I am sure that, like all technologies, there will be some bumps along the way, but I believe that the potential rewards are well worth the risks.
But, what do you think about Neuralink? Do you think that the potential benefits outweigh the risks? And should we settle on curing diseases or go on to reach transhumanism altogether? Let me know in the comments below!