Neuralink, Elon Musk’s brain-computer linkup venture, has sparked fans’ imaginations. Martians controlling Teslas, anyone?
The ambitious business plan, detailed in a San Francisco presentation Tuesday evening, involves implanting a chip with 1,024 ultra-thin electrodes to interact with a user’s brain. Four of them could be used as early as next year for medical patients in clinical trials, enabling them to interact with a computer and potentially control other devices.
But the long-term goal, as explained by Musk, is to develop a symbiotic relationship between man and machine. This would halt the rise of a super-smart A.I. enslaving humanity, Musk reasons, and would be akin to removing a barrier between a human and their smartphone.
The reveal was met with a mixed reception from the general public, as some questioned whether they really wanted Silicon Valley tech wired into their cranium. Others grew excited about the possibilities, asking Musk whether Neuralink could help fuel even more ambitious ideas.
Neuralink: Mars Inhabitants Could Wire Up to the Web
“Hey [Musk] could individuals on the Mars/Martian colony, be able to have access to [Neuralink]?” asked Twitter user Austin Barnard.
The Mars colony is one of Musk’s most ambitious goals. His space-faring firm SpaceX is currently developing the Starship, a stainless steel rocket fueled by liquid oxygen and methane capable of transporting 100 people to Mars on a three-to-six-month trip. Musk has declared his intention to establish a colony as early as 2050.
“Sure,” Musk responded.
It sounds like a no-brainer, but Neuralink on Mars may not be a done deal. Scott Solomon, a professor at Rice University, previously explained to Inverse how the offspring of Mars inhabitants may rapidly change due to high levels of radiation sparking gene mutations. Solomon suggested that could lead to stronger bones to cope with the gravity, closer sight due to the smaller surroundings, and a weaker immune system due to the clean base.
That could mean Neuralink’s method needs a bit of tweaking before it can wire up Mars descendants. The robot machine used to install the N1 chip uses computer vision and a minuscule needle to thread probes five microns thick into the brain. If Martians develop new characteristics, it could require changing the machine around to make it work.
Neuralink: Control a Tesla With Your Mind
“[Musk,] in theory could a [Neuralink] N1 communicate with a [Tesla] (authenticate user, unlock, etc),” asked YouTuber Sam Sheffer.
“With anything online,” Musk responded.
Neuralink’s iPhone app is initially designed to interface via Bluetooth with the N1 chip setup. It uses this information to control the phone or, through Bluetooth, control a keyboard and mouse on a computer.
With that in mind, it’s perhaps not a big leap to imagine a mind-controlled Tesla. The company already offers limited controls for the car through the smartphone app, enabling users to send their car to the curb using the “summon” feature. The upcoming enhanced summon feature will enable drivers to move the car around a parking lot. The in-development full-self-driving feature will use the existing sensor array to drive to a destination using just voice.
But why speak, when you can think about where you want to go?
Neuralink: Ransomware in the Brain?
One of the less desirable side effects of the chip could be the electrodes’ read and write functionality. Paired with third-party apps, this could wreak havoc.
“help, I don’t have much time,” wrote a Twitter user called “Vasta.” “My Neuralink got ransomware’d, my vision is cutting in and out and I can’t stop punching myself in the face. They need 2BTC, Elon. hellpp.”
“🤣🤣 yes, security is extremely important,” Musk responded.
Musk noted at the presentation that “conceivably there could be some kind of app store thing in the future,” but it would require much higher levels of security than existing app stores. President of Neuralink Max Hodak said that ad-supported apps, for example, would be completely undesirable.
This could explain why reaction in some circles has been mixed. One Twitter user, a filmmaker called Cameron Geiser, declared it “a terrible idea” as computers are prone to hacking. Another user, Yusuf Tör, noted the contradiction between protecting humans against A.I. and wiring their brains up to computers. The Tor Project dedicated to privacy also highlighted the risks involved in the process.
Musk has predicted that this won’t be an overnight shift. But with a long way to go before the N1 is even accepted in human trials, it could be a long time before Neuralink starts wiring up everyone.one.