If you read this headline and thought you’d entered an alternate reality where Black Mirror was real life and not just a TV show, I’m with you.
As hard as it might be to believe, we haven’t stepped into Charlie Brooker’s alternative universe. Nope, we’re still in the same place we’ve always been – but so is Elon Musk and his super-secretive startup, Neuralink.
The tech entrepreneur announced on Tuesday evening (July 16) the company is in the process of working on a technology to insert electrodes into human brains, and is hoping to do so by as early as next year.
In a livestreamed presentation last night, Musk confirmed the technology involves inserting incredibly fine threads, covered in electrodes, into the brain using a robot surgeon.
These threads will then be able to record the information being transmitted by neurons and synapses onto a tiny sensor, Musk claimed.
Pretty impressive, right? It gets more impressive when you take into account the Neuralink president Max Hodak told the audience they aim to use the technology inside an actual human brain by as early as next year.
Musk then confirmed in the Q&A that the rumours about testing on primates – for example, monkeys – were not entirely off-base, taking the audience and other team members by surprise.
Elon Musk just answered a question about animal Neuralink research by saying, "A monkey has been able to control a computer with its brain"
Neuralink rep: "I guess we're letting that cat out of the bag!"
Elon: "You mean, that monkey"
— Sam Machkovech (@samred) July 17, 2019
As reported by TechCrunch, the 48-year-old said this method will have much less potential impact to the surrounding brain tissue in comparison to what is currently used for today’s brain-computer interfaces.
He told the audience, in reference to the brain disorders the company hopes to solve:
Most people don’t realise, we can solve that with a chip.
Although the goal for now is to use the robot surgeon for medical purposes, Musk said the long-term aim for Neuralink is to figure out a way to ‘achieve a sort of symbiosis with artificial intelligence’. He added this was not ‘mandatory,’ saying you have the option to choose it if you want.
Although a target of next year sounds incredibly impressive, it might not be entirely realistic as Neuralink scientists told The New York Times on Monday (July 15) that the company still has a ‘long way to go’ before it can get anywhere near offering a commercial service.
So we might not be creating our own Black Mirror stories just yet…
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A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).