Today we are going to talk about Neuralink. Have you ever thought about future technology that can cure many diseases which is not curable yet? I’m sure you must have thought about a virtual reality where you can have a perfect life. So let’s learn more about Neuralink.
What Is Neuralink?
Neuralink is a neurotechnology company. It was founded by Elon Musk, Ben Rapoport, DongjinSeo, Max Hodak, Paul Morello, Philip Sabes, Tim Gardner, Tim Hanson, and Vanessa Tolosa in July 2016.
Neuralink’s mission is to save humanity from the existential vulnerability of being wiped out by artificial intelligence. In simple words, the purpose of Neuralink is to solve important brain and spine problems with a seamlessly implanted device.
Why Do We Need Neuralink?
Well, neuralink is meant to assist people with neurological problems. Generally, almost everyone has neurological problems over time. So Elon Musk’s team wants to introduce a brain device that is reliable and affordable.
The target neurological problems are amnesia, deafness, blindness, paralysis, seizures, insomnia, depression, anxiety, addiction, strokes, extreme pain, and brain damage.
People are stressed out about these neurological problems but if neuralink works as it claims it can be beneficial for all humankind.
Neuralink’s Initial Work
In July 2019, Elon Musk held a presentation. The first product is called the N1 sensor. It is a four by five-millimeter chip attached to a thousand single-digit micron thin threads. These thin threads are physically way too small for any human to physically do the implantation. To resolve this problem they built a robot so that bleeding does not occur during surgery.
Founder of Neuralink Elon Musk – “you need this to be done with the robot for safety purposes because it is very tiny and it needs to be very precise, you don’t want to pierce a blood vessel. So when you are into each thread that the robot looks sort of basically through a microscope and inserts each electrode specifically. The brain surface moves with the heartbeat and breathing, the robot tracks it and adjusts for this movement. Bypassing in any kind of blood vessel and making sure they inserted without causing trauma or minimal trauma. Yeah, that’s not zero but you won’t notice it that’s the important part.”
The thing is that these nanowires are trying to detect is the spikes in the neurons. So the neurons will have a fluctuation but here and there it will spike up and that is when the neuron is creating an action. It happens all the time and there are millions of neurons so it takes an AI capable of decoding what all this noise means.
This N1 chip has thousand times more electrodes than the current technology which is called the UTAH ARRAY which is in use with about 20 patients and has been able to produce stuff like they can move a cursor around the screen, text messaging things like that so a thousand times more electrodes than that.
The N1 also has no external wires that connect wirelessly through the skin to a wearable device that we call the link which contains a Bluetooth radio and a battery. It will be controlled through an iPhone app you won’t need to attend a doctor’s office and have them have an exotic programmer to configure it.
The first human trial is going to be focused on quadriplegic patients but they were very clear that they will target different diseases and enhancement.
Philip Sabes (Senior scientist at Neuralink), talked all about what their goals are and what the potential of a neural link could be. Founder of neuralink Musk said “it is the device that folks can bring home and use on their own. We think the people would be able to get naturalistic control over the computers, not just a mouse but also keyboard game controllers and potentially other devices a person could imagine. Running or dancing or even Kung fu and we would be able to decode that signal, the ability to control.
For example, a 3d avatar that they could use for online gaming for sports, it could allow them to control a wide range of assistive robotic devices and ultimately if and when the technology for spinal cord nerve or muscle stimulation gets far enough ultimately it could be used to restore that individual’s control of their own body.
Now some of you that may seem a little bit fantastical that you could write information into the brain. It turns out if you pass a tiny amount of current through that electrode what happens is that you activate cells nearby to restore the sense of touch or to restore vision. So that we can create rich visual feedback for the blind but Neuralink wants to do is to give people the ability both to repair broken brain circuits and also to ultimately give us better connections to the world, to each other and ourselves.”
Neuralink’s team custom-designed simulation engine for the electrical stimulation that can coexist alongside their analog pixels. The simulation engine has 0.2 microamp of amplitude resolution and 7.8 microseconds of time resolution and we can also stimulate any combination of 64 channels at the same time.
Elon Musk describes Neuralink is a different kind of artificial or super intelligence than we normally think about.
Apparently near the end Elon Musk about what it’s gonna be like communicating to someone else who’s outfitted with a neuralink. Neuralink’s founder Musk said – “you could communicate at the kind of complex meme structure level, really how like there’s a new type of communication, quite conceptual telepathy essentially. It’s hard to say what the future will be with, something like this brain-machine he interfaces.
I doubt that we would be able to eliminate all suffering and it actually may be ultimately hardly dystopian if we do it eliminate all suffering if that actually may not be a true utopia.”
Neuralink’s Recent Progress
On 28 August 2020, Elon Musk presented one year’s progress in front of the world. In the presentation, Elon Musk showed three pigs. One was a normal pig, the second was the pig who was initially implanted with neuralink and later removed. It shows that if someone wants to remove it they can do that without any issue. The third pig was implanted with neuralink and people could hear the beeps which were real-time signals from the neuralink in the pig’s head. This neural link connects to neurons that are in her snout. So whenever she shuffles around and touches something with her snout that sends out neural spikes which are detected. You might be thinking it is against animal rights. Am I right? If yes you can check animal care at neuralink here.
Neuralink LINK V0.9
LINK V0.9 is the current prototype that has about a thousand channels which ensures that it is about 100 times better than the next best consumer device that’s available. And it’s 23 millimeters by 8 millimeters. It’s fit nicely in the skull because the skull is about 10 millimeters thick. It goes flush with your skull which means it’s invisible. And all you can see later is a tiny scar. It is inductively charged. So it’s charged in the same way that you charge your smartphone. You can use it all day and charge it at night and have full functionality.
In terms of stimulating neurons, we need precise control of the electric field in time and space. We need a wide range of current for different brain regions. And you don’t want harm to the brain over time. The way they analysis the stimulating neurons are with two-photon microscopy. Sounds interesting right? You might be thinking how far we have come that we seeing a product which we can only imagine once.
Elon Musk is one of those people who can bring a massive change for human civilization. Elon Musk’s neuralink is a perfect example of this. All those things which we dreamed of can be possible from this nanodevice as we move ahead towards the future. Neuralink has great potential. And with this effort by Elon musk, we can say the future we dreamed of is no longer far away. We just have to try new things and we will move closer to the future.
Do you love the idea of neuralink? Comment down your views. Is it a revolutionary idea or will it fail? We would love to hear from you.