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Aug 19, 2019,  by Allianz Partners Business Insights

Neuralink: Elon Musk unveils an implant to cyber-augment the human brain

In 2017, Elon Musk created and financed Neuralink, a start-up specialising in the development of exchanges of data by means of thought between human beings and machines. The CEO and his researchers unveiled a prototype in mid-July of a new cerebral implant, which in time could usher in incredible advances in technology, and even one day be at the origin of a system to improve the brain via artificial intelligence.neu

Neuralink – a company created by Elon Musk just a few short years ago – is making breath-taking strides. At a press conference on Tuesday 16 July, the start-up unveiled its project to design a cerebral implant aimed at connecting the human brain to a machine. The ultimate goal of the system, which was made public at San Francisco during an event broadcast live on YouTube, is to provide users with a brain with added capabilities courtesy of stimulation by artificial intelligence. The device is shaped like a little box attached behind the ear and linked to the brain by a wireless connection, Le Monde reports.

 

Huge investment from Elon Musk

 

For the moment, the technology has only been tested on laboratory rats according to Bloomberg. A request for authorisation to launch tests on humans from 2020 onwards will soon be officially sent to the relevant US body. Since it was created in 2017, Neuralink has raised over 150 million US dollars (just over 134 million euros) from various investors, with Musk alone pouring 100 million US dollars (c. 90 million euros) into the company, of which he is also the CEO.

The innovations developed by Neuralink are particularly promising, even if those behind the start-up have maintained a discreet silence about the progress made to date. Researchers have been able to record the brain activity of the rats using thousands of tiny electrodes surgically implanted into their neurones and synapses. Once these methods which cause a minimum of neurological damage are fully mastered, they could one day be used in other fields.

 

Plenty of potential to be tapped into

 

One of the possible future uses of the implant could for example be the transmission of data between humans and computers – the mission for which Neuralink was initially created. Another possibility is thought control of various devices such as smartphones. "Many people gave up and said that it was impossible," Musk commented at the press conference. "The next ten years are going to see major advances in this sector."

A functionality of this kind would be incredibly useful for people who are paralysed, and indeed the first tests on humans, provided that they are authorised by the US health administration, will be carried out on handicapped people. The prototype shown at the press conference is a long way away from making something of this kind a reality however, with the box not currently having a wireless connection, fitted instead with a USB port.

Musk though is looking to the future when it comes to the potential of cyber-enhanced brains. "We are getting into symbiosis with artificial intelligence," the billionaire CEO declared. "It’s something that we can choose to have, if we so desire. I think that it will be huge for our civilisation."

 

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