Elon musk wants to make a wizard hat for the brain.

Artificial intelligence: Elon musk wants to make a wizard hat for the brain.

Elon musk wants to make a wizard hat for the brain.

That’s how one site — Wait But Why, which had an exclusive interview with the Iron Man wannabe — described the latest project from the founder of SpaceX and Tesla.

Elon musk wants to make a wizard hat for the brain  : The billionaire has launched another company, making him the CEO of three futuristic startups. The latest is Neuralink, which aims to develop tech called “neural lace” that implants electrodes in your brain to let it interface with machines as well as boost memory and fight neurological diseases. Musk aims to have a version ready in just four years.

What is neural lace?

It isn’t a specific technology, but a term to describe intertwining computing with our brains using connected electrodes. Tiny implants embedded in the brain read neural activity, translate it and communicate it to a machine. Neuralink is aiming to record activity from a million neurons, but the current technology requires one electrode per neuron, with most systems limited to just 100 electrodes – meaning they capture a tiny slice of the 100 billion neurons in our brains. Scientists will have to cram in a lot more electrodes or find a way for each to pick up more neural activity. 

What’s the goal? 

Musk’s sick of typing. He argues our brains are amazing at processing information, and machine learning and AI mean computers are becoming ever more impressive, yet the interaction between them is limited to how fast we can type. Imagine if, instead of tapping out instructions to machines, we thought them. And, if that’s possible, so too is telepathy between humans. Rather than typing a WhatsApp message, we could think it and send it straight to a friend’s brain. 

Musk aims to connect the brain to a computer within four years, to address specific brain diseases or disabilities, and eight years to work on a perfectly healthy brain. If you’re aiming high, you may as well aim fast. 

Can Musk meet that goal?

We’ll have to wait and see. Academics have been working on brain-to-computer interfaces for years, so patience may be required. The existing systems let people with brain disorders communicate via brain implants, but it’s a slow process. There’s a lot we don’t understand and training computers to understand our thoughts may well take decades.

Who else is working on this?

Aside from academics, Facebook has a team of 60 scientists toiling to build a system that lets you command your smartphone via thoughts alone. Rather than looking at your screen, tapping on the Facebook icon and then posting a message to friends, you could do it all via the power of your mind and without implants, instead using lasers to image your brain. Facebook hopes to let you “type” one hundred words per minute and to let users interact in augmented and virtual reality via a “brain mouse”.  

Do we need to type without thinking? 

Perhaps not, but one reason Musk is investing in neural connectivity is to let us keep up with computers. By blending our biology with technology, boosting our memory and communication skills, it may be harder for AI to leave us behind when the singularity occurs. 


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