By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff
NEW YORK – Elon Musk, the visionary behind SpaceX and Tesla, has launched a new venture called Neuralink–a company that has hopes of bridging the line between science fiction and science fact by linking humans with artificial intelligence. The company has the lofty goal of linking the human brain with a computer, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
Neuralink is still in its earliest stages, but according to the report, the plan is to develop computers that can be implanted in the brain. The idea is to allow the brain to merge with software to improve memory or allow for “more direct interfacing with computing devices,” as The Verge notes. According to internal sources, Neuralink is developing a technology called “neural lace” that would allow the brain to communicate with a computer without having to physically interface with it. According to the Journal’s report, as cited by Business Insider, “neural lace involves implanting electrodes in the brain so people could upload or download their thoughts to or from a computer.”
While Musk has touted the plan to achieve a symbiosis with machines, the early goals of the company are likely to focus on developing implants that could treat medical disorders such as epilepsy or depression, the Journal reported. According to The Verge, the idea of using electrode arrays and other implants have been used to assist patients dealing with Parkinson’s, epilepsy, and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Neuralink has registered as a medical research company and Musk is likely to finance the company himself, according to reports. If Musk seeks additional funding, it’s likely he could reach out to his colleague Peter Thiel, with whom he co-founded PayPal.
There is no indication on how long it will take Neuralink to have a product ready for testing as very little has yet to be reported about the fledgling company. It could take years before anything is seen. The Verge noted that although science has come a long way, neuroscientists have a limited “understanding about how the neurons in the human brain communicate, and our methods for collecting data on those neurons is rudimentary.”
Blake Richards, a neuroscientist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto, told The Verge that Neuralink’s goals of entering human trials could be tricky as well.
“People are only going to be amenable to the idea [of an implant] if they have a very serious medical condition they might get help with. Most healthy individuals are uncomfortable with the idea of having a doctor crack open their skull,” Richards said in a statement.