Elon Musk Outlines Plans for Bay Area Brain Implants Startup Neuralink

Elon Musk Outlines Plans for Bay Area Brain Implants Startup Neuralink April 24, 2017
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

SAN FRANCISCO – Elon Musk’s startup Neuralink has become more defined in the weeks since the company that looks to merge science fiction and science fact by linking the brain with artificial intelligence.

Last week, Musk outlined some of the short-term goals of Neuralink on the website Wait But Why, which includes the goal of bringing the company’s first products to market within four years, according to a breakdown provided by the Los Angeles Times. Long-term, Musk and Neuralink are looking to develop what was referred to as a “wizard’s hat for the brain” that would ultimately allow the brain to communicate wirelessly with computers and other brains that have the neural implant. In the interview, Musk said the idea would be to develop a sort of telepathic form of communication between the brains that have the implants. These kinds of devices could be available in the next eight to 10 years, Musk said.

"There are a bunch of concepts in your head that then your brain has to try to compress into this incredibly low data rate called speech or typing," Musk said in the interview with Wait But Why, as reported by Fortune. "If you have two brain interfaces, you could actually do an uncompressed direct conceptual communication with another person."

As BioSpace reported in March, Neuralink is developing a technology called “neural lace” that would allow the brain to communicate with a computer without having to physically interface with it. According to reports, “neural lace involves implanting electrodes in the brain so people could upload or download their thoughts to or from a computer.”

In the interview, Musk, the visionary behind SpaceX and Tesla, said people should not recoil from the idea as most people are already “kind of merged” with their mobile devices and computers.

While Musk has touted the plan to achieve a symbiosis with machines, the early goals of the company are likely to focus on developing implants that could treat medical disorders such as epilepsy or depression.

Musk’s goals for Neuralink are lofty, but could certainly become tricky when it comes to regulatory hurdles or even to marketing such technology. Neuralink’s scientists will have to develop a deep understanding about how neurons communicate in order to develop such a device. Blake Richards, a neuroscientist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto, told The Verge last month that Neuralink’s goals of entering human trials could be tricky as well.

“People are only going to be amenable to the idea [of an implant] if they have a very serious medical condition they might get help with. Most healthy individuals are uncomfortable with the idea of having a doctor crack open their skull,” Richards said in a statement.

Among Neuralink’s team is Flip Sabes, a professor at University of California at San Francisco who is working on brain-machine interfaces, as well as Ben Rapoport, a neurosurgeon. Musk will serve as chief executive officer of Neuralink.

Back to news