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News > Science and Tech

Elon Musk Wants to Put Implants Into People's Brains Next Year

  • Elon has invested around US$100 million in Neuralink since its founding in 2016.

    Elon has invested around US$100 million in Neuralink since its founding in 2016. | Photo: Neuralink

Published 18 July 2019
Opinion

"We hope to have this aspirationally in a human patient before the end of next year," Musk said.

In what may appear as a plot for a science fiction story, tech mogul Elon Musk announced Tuesday that his neurotechnology startup, Neuralink, hopes to begin implanting devices into human brains as early as 2020.

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"We hope to have this aspirationally in a human patient before the end of next year," Musk said at a press conference, adding that the Neuralink system would allow for humans to achieve "symbiosis with artificial intelligence."

The small chips (measuring four by four millimeters), referred to as a brain-machine interface, would stimulate neurons or nerve cells using flexible threads of electrodes. Each thread would be inserted by a precision robot into the subject’s brain. 

"It's not like a major operation - it's sort of equivalent to a LASIK type of thing," he added, acknowledging the system would first need approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

According to a New York Times report, Musk has invested around US$100 million in the startup since its founding in 2016. The company argues the implant could be used to treat brain disorders and ultimately could "preserve and enhance" brain function.

Yet not all are so optimistic about this futuristic proposal. A physician who founded Neurofeedback Neuroboost, Philipp Heiler, told Business Insider that any sort of procedure like this would be accompanied by risks including brain damage, inflammation, and scarring.

"You have to ask yourself what the advantage is over other interfaces like touchscreens or language assistants like Alexa," Heiler added.

Others such as Thomas Stieglitz from the University of Freiburg in Germany believe “Neuralink's long-term goals are unrealistic, or at least it's dubious to phrase them in such a way," as this is not the first time Musk has promised science-fiction gadgets that have turned out to be mere marketing gimmicks.

Meanwhile, Musk continues a rough streak in 2019 to personal scandals regarding comments made on social media which translated to bigger trouble with his star company, Tesla, whose stocks have hit a two-year low. 

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