Reports are emerging that Elon Musk formed a company in California 6 months ago, by the name of Neuralink, with the goal of merging human brains and machines. The company was formed six months ago, and it has been confirmed by Max Hodak who says he is a member of the Founders Team. The announcement immediately conjures visions of super-humans and the world-famous cyborg Neil Harbisson.
In February, Musk made a speech in Dubai in which he said that humans would have to eventually merge with machines or be in danger of being “left behind”. His reasoning was that as AI develops, the typical human/machine interface of using fingers on a keyboard is just too slow to keep up. A direct interface, a wired brain if you would like to call it that, would be much faster and provide humanity a purpose on the planet, at least for a little bit longer. In his speech in Dubai, Musk highlighted that: “Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence”.
“Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence”
In any case, most of the financial community realize that the February statement was an allusion to Neuralink which had already been put into place. The company has begun hiring staff, including engineers and neuroscience interface researchers from Lawrence Livermore, University of California San Francisco, and Boston University.
Initially it is believed that Neuralink will explore the same lines of research as Kernel, which evolved from Braintree. Kernel and other companies in the field don’t actually pursue merging human brains with machines, rather they use machines to help humans who may have diseases or damage that affect the normal function of their brains and nervous systems. It is therapeutic rather than an enhancement, and great strides have been made, although the field is very new.
“I see it as a new sensory organ that extends my perception of color”
The world’s first “cyborg”, as Neil Harbisson has titled himself, developed the technology to offset his color-blindness. He wasn’t looking for super-powers, although he says he has created an entirely new sense. He has an antenna implanted in his skull that has a camera mounted on it. The camera is attached to a processor which analyzes each color in the visual spectrum and turns into frequency that Harbisson can “hear” in his head. It allows him to distinguish between different colors. It is a remarkable and creative adaptation to allow him to “hear” color. Harbisson claims that it is an entirely new sense, and in a real way, he is correct. Harbisson notes: “I see it as a new sensory organ that extends my perception of colour”.
Of course, Elon Musk’s Neuralink is pushing the view that humans must become cyborgs for mere survival and value, not as liberating experience. It isn’t about letting the blind “see” as much as keeping pace with machines to avoid obsolescence. In Dubai he said that going cyborg is the best way to solve the “control and useless” problem.
His new venture is getting a bit of negative feedback however, especially in the financial press. Musk seems to be stretched a bit thin and most of his ventures aren’t producing a profit. Tesla, in particular, is regarded as wildly over-valued. The financial industry would like him to just make a profit on that first, before he jumps into creating a machine interface with a load of hyperbolic promises.