The motor and sensory functions are controlled by activity produced in the brain. Neurons send commands to the different areas of our body. Elon Musk’s Neuralink team wants to develop an interface that interprets those commands and controls them. This interface is what Neuralink calls neural lace and the goal is to directly link you to someone else’s thoughts. Eventually as this technology progresses, these thoughts could be assembled and shared over the internet. The shared collection of thoughts driven by neurons would be used for innovating new technologies and creative pursuits. Right now Neuralink is applying the technology to medical applications, with a concentration on epilepsy and Alzheimer’s patients. The implementation of brain chips is definitely part of the future of treatment for Alzheimer’s and epilepsy conditions.
Beyond treatment for specific illnesses, there is room for skepticism about Neuralink’s future plans. For a medical patient who is suffering, choosing the possibilities associated with this technology might be well worth it and life changing. Most of the general population is going to steer away from a technology that relies on drilling holes into the head. The invasiveness of the procedure combined with significant costs will deter most from considering this surgery. This calls into the question the commercial viability of the product and we will most likely see this as a niche product with a continued focus on the medical market segment. However, if Neuralink is focusing on the long term and is willing to look away from profitability during the early years, then release to the consumer market may come earlier than expected.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is also funding research in similar applications for use by the military. The agency will be joined by Neuralink in developing the technologies for this AI interface. Because DARPA would like to apply the interface as temporary equipment a soldier uses, they are seeking non-surgical applications that reside outside of the head. DARPA states the non-surgical methods include the use of ultrasound to read brain signals to an implant that communicates with hardware on the equipment.
These are the practical applications of brain implant technology in the near future. A look at Elon Musk’s plan reveals a huge market that appears very close to revolutionizing industry and defense. However, the rest of us will probably have to wait a little longer before we get to become a cyborg.