June 12, 2024

Neuralink is a brain-machine interface company whose technology enables people to control devices like their computer and phone with just their thoughts. Inspired by Iain M Banks’ sci-fi series The Culture, its technology makes the future closer than ever.

Neuralink can be used to treat spinal cord injuries in the short-term, while its longer-term goal is human enhancement, including telepathy, enhanced memory storage and even uploading and downloading memories.

How Neuralink Works

YouTube video showing an implanted monkey playing Pong with wirelessly transmitted mental commands transmitted directly from its mind to a computer is evidence that Neuralink may soon enter human clinical trials, though experts remain sceptical that their devices can help patients and meet long-term ambitions of the company.

Neuralink’s flagship product, Link, consists of a chip that can read data from neurons within the brain. With 1,024 thin electrodes that penetrate to record electrical signals and other forms of information. Wirelessly transmitting it back outward to an earpiece worn behind one’s ear; phones or tablets can connect wirelessly and display that information.

At first, the technology developed by his company will have a medical focus aimed at helping conditions like paraplegia and tetraplegia; but Musk sees potential applications beyond medicine; people could potentially use it for more radical purposes like communicating without verbally exchanging words or writing down messages.

The Link

Neuralink’s brain-computer interface, The Link, aims to assist those living with paralysis control external technologies like computers and robotic arms through mental control. According to Neuralink’s claims, it can also help amputees manage prosthetic limbs as well as enable paraplegics to use digital art or browse the internet by thinking.

The device consists of a coin-sized chip surgically implanted inside the skull, connected to 3,072 electrodes distributed along threads thinner than human hair that connect the chip with various parts of the brain for targeted stimulation of neural signals.

Electrodes used by Neuralink detect the electrical signals, known as action potentials, produced by neurons located in certain areas of the brain and process them before being sent out for processing by a chip and device. To make sure wires are placed appropriately, Neuralink has designed an advanced robotic implanter capable of placing devices with extreme precision; according to one Neuralink paper this robot can place electrodes ten times more accurately than human surgeons!

The Threads

Neuralink’s brain-machine interface, commonly referred to as the Link, consists of a coin-sized panel of microchips and batteries surgically implanted under the skull. This transmits signal directly into 96 electrode “threads”, thinner than human hair but capable of sensing electrical impulses.

Threads of Neuralink’s neurosurgical robot will eventually cover neural pathways associated with specific parts of the brain responsible for motor skills. Due to their delicate yet flexible construction, these threads cannot be placed manually into place by hand; for that reason alone Neuralink developed its robotic neurosurgery platform.

The robot installs the 96 electrode threads far faster and with greater precision than human hands could ever manage, as well as being done while the patient remains awake reducing general anesthesia use. Although still under development, the Link may begin implanting humans sometime as early as 2024 to initially assist people living with paralysis regain lost movement and communication abilities before expanding its medical applications to treat neurological disorders and treat other medical needs.

The Robot

Elon Musk’s attempts at merging AI and neuroscience through Neuralink company has generated criticism among some neuroscientists.

Science fiction novels that explore human-AI relationships frequently feature this motif; one such work from Scottish author Iain M Banks’ Culture series features utopias in which both humans and intelligent machines co-exist peacefully in these futuristic interstellar utopias.

Neuralink has developed a brain computer that will work with external devices, such as robotic prosthetic limbs, so you can use your mind to control them with ease. Furthermore, its immersive virtual and augmented reality experiences could enhance their experience even further.

This device uses electrode threads embedded within a coin-sized device called the Link to read your brain signals, which sits flush against your skull. Four microchips inside will decode neural signals and wirelessly send them up to 10 meters away to a computer – similar technology found in smartphones and laptops, only much smaller in scale.

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