It is something that will make many animal lovers fuming: the skull of a monkey that is sawed open in a laboratory to place a chip in the brain of the animal connected to a game computer. Yet that is exactly what Tesla boss Elon Musk has commissioned his company Neuralink.
The chip in the monkey’s head was connected to the brain of the animal by Neuralink with tiny wires, Musk said in an interview on the new social medium Clubhouse. Thanks to the chip, the animal can now play computer games ‘in its head.’ “It’s not an unfortunate monkey,” Musk said cheerfully. “It is also impossible to see with the naked eye where the neuro implant has been inserted, except for a piece of shaved hair on his head, like a mohawk.”
San Francisco-based Neuralink, co-founded by Musk in 2016, is working on a ‘brain-machine interface.’ Or as Musk describes it: “a Fitbit in your head with tiny wires to your brain.”
Trials on humans
Neuralink has been conducting tests on monkeys for some time. Musk already said in 2019 that it would have been possible to have a monkey operate a computer during tests. The same has also been done with pigs. In the short term, the company also wants to do tests with people. The goal is to get the brain to ‘type’ 40 different words per minute. That would be a godsend for people who cannot communicate due to paralysis.
It should not stop there. Ultimately, ‘a symbiosis with AI’ is Musk’s mission. This means that not only can data be downloaded from the brain, but that it can also be enriched with extra brainpower or information, such as a language.
According to Musk, this is of existential importance to humanity. He has been warning for years against a future in which artificial intelligence will radically outpace the human brain and leave our species, just like the apes now, a marginal existence in remote habitats.
Only by linking the human brain to AI would we be able to control machines and distribute hyper-intelligence democratically across humanity, instead of ending up with governments or a few large companies, Musk said earlier. “Everyone gets super smart.”
Uploading and downloading the human brain would even enable immortality, some dream. In the United States, companies can freeze their brains after death, in anticipation of technology that can read all information in the brain after thawing, including memory and character.
Even after Musk’s interview with Clubhouse, people already reported to the Tesla boss as volunteers for further experiments with the neurochips. “Twenty years ago, I was in a car accident, and since then, I have been paralyzed just below my shoulders,” Hamoon Kamai responded to the social medium. “I am always available for clinical research at Neuralink.”