Neuralink has been working on connecting the brain to a computer for some years now. It has made a number of announcements over the past two years demonstrating the workability of their ideas and prototypes on animals (to take a look at their technology watch the clip).
Now they are seeking FDA approval to move into human clinical trials as soon as 2023. Their short term goal is to let paralysed or stroke-impaired people to connect seamlessly with a computer or a smartphone (and from there on to the web). Restoring the ability to communicate (using synthetic voice) and move would indeed be a tremendous improvement for many people.
During the presentation Elon Musk, the founder of Neuralink, hinted that as many as 4 chips, each equipped with hundreds of sensors to pick up electrical signals from nearby neurones, could be implanted and they would able to communicate wirelessly with a computer/smartphone (although he did not elaborate on how these chips can be powered).
The implant will be made by a robot with a procedure that, according to Neuralink, would be very easy and painless.
Interestingly, he also stated that the long term goal is to create a symbioses between the brain and the computer merging human intelligence with artificial intelligence. This is a really “long” term goal, both in terms of feasibility and, I feel, in terms of acceptance. How many people would be willing to go along with that?
Also, this will open up deep, and significant, ethical questions. Would these merging of intelligence provide an unfair advantage? Would some people be required to have the implant to apply for some jobs? Would that “merging” result in a different “I”?
As it is happening in genomics, bio-engineering and artificial intelligence are taking us into uncharted territories.