Linking Minds with Neuralink

Apurva

As time goes by we have found ourselves largely attracted by the term “handsfree”. We have shifted to technology which does not involve much effort on our behalf to make everything easier, and ourselves a tad bit lazier. Now consider being able to go about your daily social media browsing and texting by just lying back. The proposed idea is of a brain-computer interface, Neuralink by Elon Musk, which will help us operate a computer directly via brain signals instead of the usual physical use. This is especially useful when it comes to handicapped and paralysed people for communication with the idea of typing at least 40 words a minute just by thinking.

The implementation does seem slightly spine-tingling (quite literally) as the process involves tiny electrodes, about a quarter the length of a hair to be inserted surgically into the brain. This network will be connected to a detachable and upgradable pod behind the ear. To access the data flowing inside our brain must not be limited to a neurological problem but also an engineering one as the information does flow analogous to bits. The Neuralink electrodes not only plan on “reading” this data to help us access technology straight from brain commands, but also to “write” and alter these neural signals. The idea of altering these signals thus proposed several prospects of helping patients with Alzheimer’s where the neural links have weakened, and also to stimulate activity in patients who have lost their motor controls. Also meaning, could we possibly be able to dance or kung-fu by letting AI “write” it in our brain?

As Musk claims, a monkey has already been able to operate a computer and the electrode surgery has already been successful with a rat. The technology is nearly ready but how willing would people be if this involves brain surgery is a massive question ahead. The challenges faced would be immense, the human brain isn’t a hospitable place for wires and neither is human fear readily going to allow it. It’s likely that by 2040 this technology shall become non-invasive where a brain-computer interface could be possible without the need for surgery. However, for patients with lost sense and motor skills this would come up as a blessing regardless, and even for the common people, this is nothing less than revolutionary.

Sources/Image sources:

https://www.theverge.com/2020/8/26/21402240/neuralink-august-2020-event-brain-machine-interface-working-demonstration

https://techcrunch.com/2020/07/09/elon-musk-sets-update-on-brain-computer-interface-company-neuralink-for-august-28/

https://cleantechnica.com/2020/09/01/our-future-will-be-controlled-by-combined-will-of-the-people-of-earth-musks-neuralink/

About the Author: Apurva Mali is a Second Year Computer Engineering student at RAIT.