Science & Technology

Unlocking Minds: Exploring Elon Musk’s Neuralink Revolution

Journey into the Future of Brain-Computer Interfaces and Human Potential

Elon Musk’s ideas often challenge conventional thinking, and Neuralink is no exception. This technology, which aims to control devices with mere thoughts, has piqued the world’s curiosity. Every news story about it is presented with awe and great expectations. The burning question is: Will Musk succeed in achieving what was once deemed impossible through Neuralink?

You may have recently heard the name Neuralink, or perhaps not. However, in the near future, this term will become ubiquitous. Neuralink will soon be a word that cannot be ignored in our lives, on social media, and in the news. This is because the visionary Elon Musk is at the helm of this technology. Musk’s name evokes thoughts of Tesla, X (formerly Twitter), and now, Neuralink.

Day Dreaming Into Reality

Many have described Musk as someone who strives to transform daydreaming concepts into reality with the aid of science and immense wealth. Musk himself admits that many of his ideas stemmed from science fiction novels, television series, and movies. Recently, Musk unveiled another surprising development: Neuralink, a technology that could potentially revive individuals who are bedridden with brain diseases. The primary device is a chip about the size of a single rupee coin. Musk’s company has discovered a way to implant this chip in the brain and operate a computer through the signals received from it.

In his latest news release, Musk announced that his team had tested this ‘successful’ technology on rats and monkeys and had implanted it in the human brain for the first time. Musk later revealed that the recipient of the chip is recovering and that signals from their brain are being received.

What sets Neuralink apart from previous neurotechnology devices is its ability to wirelessly transmit all data collected from the brain to an external computer. A total of 1024 electrodes in 64 threads are connected to the brain.

Technologists claim that this is just the first phase of a world-changing invention that could eventually allow individuals to operate a computer fully with their thoughts. While some have applauded this development, others have expressed concerns. Nonetheless, Musk remains undeterred, as is typical for him. The world is eager to learn more about Neuralink.

Neuralink Concept: A Telepathic Reading Gift

Musk didn’t expect his ideas to be quickly embraced by others, and Neuralink was met with similar skepticism. This technology, capable of controlling everything with mere thoughts, was Musk’s brainchild. He found inspiration in Scottish author Iain M. Banks’s Culture series, where young individuals are raised with brain-attached interfaces, wirelessly connecting their thoughts and memories to computers throughout their development.

This idea has been on Musk’s mind from the beginning. He is among those concerned that artificial intelligence could pose a challenge and crisis for humanity itself. Musk believed that this technology would help the human brain outperform computers in the face of such a time.

Implating Chip

A chip implanted in the human brain can capture our thoughts. Those thoughts are then transmitted to the computer as signals. Consequently, with mere thoughts, individuals can control devices like computers or phones. Musk described his technology as ‘telepathy.’ Although initially underappreciated, Musk’s operational prowess and swagger, which have led to the success of his other ideas to some degree, have garnered attention. With Tesla’s success making Musk one of the world’s wealthiest individuals, he pushed his Neuralink idea forward.

In 2016, Musk started Neuralink, a neurotechnology firm. Initially, it did not bear that name. In 2017, Musk acquired the previous name, Neuralink. The company consisted of a seven-member team of engineers and scientists. Gradually, Musk and his team expanded their work and added neuroscientists from world-renowned universities to the team. In 2019, the company received $158 million in funding, with $100 million coming from Musk himself.

Since then, experiments on mice have begun. Thread-like devices were attached to their brains, and with the help of 1500 electrodes, their brain thoughts were captured and sent to a computer to extract the waveforms of each thought. After the successful first phase, Musk said that human brain testing would commence in 2020.

Previous Setbacks

However, factors including COVID-19 caused setbacks. Additionally, the typical obstacle for such scientific research emerged: it was delayed as it was approved as research that could pose a threat to humans. Finally, in May 2023, Musk received approval for the human trial.

However, Musk’s genius also played a role. He is presenting the technology, which was once considered a challenge for humans, as a means to assist immobile individuals. Although extensive experiments in the field of neurotherapy exist, the scale that Musk claims to have achieved is enormous.

On January 29 of this year, Musk announced to the world that he had implanted a chip called Neuralink in the human brain. After this, Musk revealed that he had started receiving signals from people who had received the chip last month.

Previous Technology

In typical neurotechnology, brain implant devices are complicated by drilling through the skull and attaching wires to the outside. However, in Musk’s new system, the Neuralink chip in the brain communicates with the computer wirelessly. In other words, the system is designed in such a way that the patient is not disturbed in any manner. Musk’s team also developed a unique robot that can be surgically implanted in the brain. Neuralink has been implanted in a human for the first time through robotic surgery. Musk has kept confidential information about who received the implant and the patient’s condition.

Musk ponders what would happen if the renowned scientist Stephen Hawking, who used a wheelchair due to motor neuron disease, could communicate faster than the best typist. Neuralink is advancing research into the treatment of brain diseases, disorders, and injuries affecting the nervous system. Currently, Musk is preparing the technology to receive signals from the brain. Still, if successful, the scientific world also sees the possibility of sending signals back to the brain.

If this is accurate, many diseases affecting humans could be eliminated from the world. Individuals with reduced mobility may be able to walk. Those with visual and hearing impairments could experience significant improvements. In fact, even the functionality of the human brain itself may change.

Neuralink Device: From Chip to Brain

According to the currently available information, Neuralink is a device about the size of a coin that is implanted in the brain and has cables that can capture brain waves. This is known as the Brain-Computer Interface (BCI). It also has a small battery that can be charged wirelessly from outside. What sets Neuralink apart from previous neurotechnology devices is that all data collected from the brain can be transmitted wirelessly to an external computer.

A total of 1024 electrodes in 64 threads are connected to the brain. The yarns used to attach the wires belong to the category of high-performance plastics called polyamides. They also have gold or platinum conductors. It is with the help of these that the waves generated in the brain are captured.

N1 chips of Neuralink

Neuralink’s N1 chips receive these collected waves. These chips are specially programmed to receive and encode the waves. 256 amplifiers are used to convert the waves from analog to digital. The information collected in this way from neurons in the brain is transmitted to the computer. The computer analyzes the information received from the brain and converts it into commands. Elon Musk has claimed that Neuralink can capture many times more information than has been captured in research so far.

It is claimed that Neuralink can collect information from more than 2,000 channels. In contrast, up to now, signals were collected from hundreds of channels associated with neurons. No one has ever made such a big claim.

The team has also developed a new robot to implant chips and wires into the brain surgically. The robot was prepared for this purpose because it does not require hours of effort to perform an exact surgery. It will also reduce the chances of making mistakes. We can think, see, hear, and understand through neurons in the brain. Neurons coordinate body functions. Imagine how a computer can overcome its shortcomings and improve its performance…

Privacy Concerns and Controversies

The main criticism surrounding Neuralink is that humans have privacy only in their minds, and this technology will eliminate even that. Additionally, Musk, who believes that the technology called AI is the “Terminator,” has faced accusations that it will allow computers to control the human brain. There has also been widespread backlash against Musk and his company over animal testing. Animal welfare organizations have alleged that out of the 24 monkeys that underwent surgery to implant the Musk chip, 20 died. However, Musk is prepared to challenge the allegation that he has not killed a single animal. Health experts have also urged Musk and the federal agency not to rush the experiment.

Nevertheless, Musk is accelerating projects at the biotech firm, following his usual style of diverting attention to something else when there is controversy. As the debate surrounding Neuralink escalates, Musk is sharing various news with the world, such as the construction of a colony with 1 million houses on Mars, the case against OpenAI, and the plan to abandon likes and shares on X. No one needs to teach Elon Musk that if you stick to one thing, even controversy will turn green.

Harsh Shah

Harsh Shah is a dynamic Science and Technology Reporter at IndiaFocus, dedicated to unraveling the fascinating world of innovation and scientific discovery. With a passion for cutting-edge advancements and an… More »

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