The memory of using YouTube for the first time is still clearly etched in my mind. One day we heard the sound of a song coming from the other room, startled by the noise, my brother and I went to investigate. We saw our father surfing in the wondrous world of YouTube where you could play any song without having to buy CDs anymore. It just bewildered us.
What Elon Musk claimed recently shows the distance technology has covered since then. He made headlines recently claiming that his latest innovation Neuralink,will make it possible to, streaming music directly into our mind. Yes, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX is back with the new episode of ‘Science fiction turned into reality.”
Musk describes Neuralink as a medium for a symbiosis of Brain with Artificial intelligence. The human brain is essentially an astonishingly powerful supercomputer which runs on power equivalent to the one used in a 20Watt electric bulb.
What Musk wants to do through Neuralink is to fit a tiny chip inside our brain, which can download all the processed information which is travelling from neuron to neuron. This chip with some threads that have the diameter of about tenth of human hair will have the potential to record and stimulate neurons across different brain areas. A Neuralink designed robot will fit electrodes containing threads using sewing technology into the brain. The technology is wireless, so at least you do not have to worry about wires hanging from your head.
Neuralink, launched as a Medical enterprise in 2016, aims to fix blindness, motor abilities, speech and much more. Although the purpose seems benevolent at first glance, we are talking about Elon Musk, the real-world Iron Man. Elon is anxious and fears Artificial Intelligence taking over Humans. He wants us to develop our intelligence potential by accessing our action potential, so that AI does not turn on its creators. For that sole reason (plus the monetization), the Brain-Machine Interface of Neuralink will be accessible to everyone.
Of course, every invention is at the centre of the doubt initially. The case of Neuralink is fascinating and problematic at times and is not different than any other path breaking innovation. Neuralink is going to change the course of human history and will literally turn us into Cyborgs and thus, causes cynicism among a large section of scientists fraternity.
The biggest and fundamental problem with the Neuralink is that it seeks to reach symbiosis of AI and the brain, an enigmatic organ about which we barely know anything. Those who support it argue that we do not need to understand how the brain works to develop Artificial intelligence while the sceptics say that while integrating the functions of Brain and AI, it is crucial to discern nature with precision. David Eagleman, in his book ‘Brain’, claims that a lot of what we see around is not even the whole picture; it is a mere description that Brain paints for us. A simple task as perception is not clearly defined yet. We still have the entire sea of discoveries to be made when it comes to neuroscience.
The other concern with Neuralink is the possible hacking of Neural networks. Though Neuralink technology is heavily dependent on Bluetooth which is supposed to be secure, there are threats from the tech like the Trojan Virus. The implications of hacking are beyond terrible and sound like an evil hacker-robot-zombie apocalypse depicted in sci-fi movies.
Another aspect of Neuralink which needs to be looked into is the classic social divide of haves and have nots. The surgery, although portrayed something as simple as a LASIK surgery, may not be affordable for everyone in the society. Are we looking at a new kind of discrimination in future? Is it even ethical and feasible to put a chip inside the brains of the entire human race? Every question leads to a new question.
It is an alien concept and thus, a scary one. It can help us learn a lot about the brain itself but will have huge repercussions. Figuring out the answers to the simple yet significant problems should probably be the next step for the Neuralink team.