Could Neuralink Lead To The Technological Singularity? – Interesting Engineering

Could Neuralink Lead To The Technological Singularity? – Interesting Engineering

Neuralink, if Elon Musk is to be believed, could be the next step in human evolution. The company’s Neural Lace technology could help stave off the potential downsides of AI to humanity and could even trigger the Technological Singularity.

In the following article, we’ll try to lift the lid on this secretive company and see what the technology hopes to achieve. Welcome to the future of mankind!


What will Neuralink do?

Neuralink is a neurotechnology company that is building a tool to link human brains with computers without the need for a physical connection. The company, formed by none other than Elon Musk, hopes to create a new way of interfacing with technology in the not too distant future.

neuralink control robots
Neuralink could be used to remotely control robots. Source: Joseph DelPreto/ MIT CSAIL

The Neuralink project began in 2016 and has made some significant advancements towards its goal. When complete the technology will enable users to have a high bandwidth interface with computers.

The company’s short term goal is to help treat serious brain disease sufferers. They also want to help anyone with serious brain damage that has been caused by a stroke or other debilitating neurological disorder.

In the longer term, Neuralink hopes to help use the technology for human enhancement in general.

The inspiration behind the company was a science-fiction concept called Neural Lace. This formed part of the fictional universe in Scottish author Iain M. Banks‘ series of novels The Culture. 

This science fiction series is set in a futuristic interstellar ‘utopia’. In this universe, all members of society live in a so-called post-scarcity civilization where humans, aliens and advanced AI all live side by side in harmony. 

neuralink the culture
Source: Ints Valcis/Flickr

How does Neuralink work?

Neuralink, it is hoped, will work by implanting tiny electrodes into the patient’s brain. This is done with the aim of linking human brains with computers without the need for any other physical connection. 

Each and every brain-computer interface (BCI) will likely be much more than just a way for you to control whatever streaming service you use. When fully developed it could be used to things like communicating with loved ones, searching the internet and interacting directly with AI.

It could even replace your television, streaming content straight into your brain.

Of course, these kinds of functionality are still nowhere near being achieved, but the potential for the technology is immense. Who knows, we may even be able to download ‘skills’ in the future much like Neo in the Matrix

At present, our understanding of the brain is still rather limited. Whilst we have gleaned a lot of information on which parts are responsible for memory or motor function, for example, much is still a mystery.

However, with regards to BCI, we do know which parts of the brain are responsible for limb movement, which parts receive stimuli from the body, etc. By implanting BCI technology into small patches on the brain’s surface can be used to help paralyzed patients move robotic arms. 

The normal nerve single from the brain for moving a limb is passed through the BCI to a computer. This, in turn, translates the command and moves a robotic arm accordingly

Sounds simple enough, but what is incredible about this technology is that it can be used to also pass signals to the brain. But this is still purely theoretical at present. 

Whilst it should be possible, we are nowhere near achieving this for most sensory information. However, there has been some development in the ability to feed signals to nerves in the cochlea to enable deaf patients to hear again.

Cochlear implants have been around for a while now and have changed the lives of many patients with severe hearing loss. 

There are also BCIs, called deep brain stimulation devices, that do currently exist. These devices send electrical signals directly into the brain, but they aren’t quite at the stage of being true nerve signals just yet.

neuralink elon musk
Source: jdlasica/Flickr

For Parkinson’s sufferers, deep-brain stimulation is the main form of treatment for alleviating symptoms. 

The technology is still in its infancy (and is relatively crude) but we are moving in the right direction. Neuralink, on the other hand, promises to be a very different beast.

The company does have a website, but very limited information beyond current vacancies is very thin on the ground indeed. But, if Elon Musk’s comments are anything to go by, we might be very close to achieving it.

According to Elon Musk, without the creation of the Neural Lace technology, humans will be unable to keep pace with the rapid advances in Artificial Intelligence.

What is Neural Lace?

The main thrust of the Neuralink company is their development of something called Neural Lace. This will be a brain to computer interface technology that, it is hoped, will enable humans to keep up with rapid development of AI.

Neural Lace is effectively an ultra-thin mesh that is implanted in the skull and forms a body of electrodes which are able to monitor a human brain function. Once achieved, this will help augment human intelligence to keep pace with AI.

According to Elon Musk, brain-to-machine (B2M) interfaces are an important part of our species’ future. Elon is no stranger to openly voicing his concern over the potential impact of AI on humanity in the future.

To ameliorate the potential disaster, Neuralink is working hard to find a way to increase humans’ intelligence to equal that of the Artificial Intelligence programs of the future, or superintelligences.

If achieved it will likely trigger something called the Technological SIngularity. It might just be the next step in human evolution. 

How much is Neuralink worth?

According to Busines Insider, Elon Musk was able to raise $27 Million in investment for Neuralink in 2017. At that time the company was only around a year old, or so.

“Neuralink has sold $27 million worth of equity out of a total offering of $100 million, according to a document published by the SEC on Friday. The form lists 12 unnamed investors and says that equity was first sold on August 15, 2017.” – Business Insider.

But it has recently been reported they have been able to raise a further $39 Million in investment. 

But it is unclear who has made the investment beyond Musk and Neutralink’s president Jared Birchall. Musk himself, at the time, even tweeted that “Neuralink is not seeking investors“.

For this reason, unlike his other company Tesla, you cannot invest with Neuralink on the stock exchange. It is likely to remain a private, rather than public, company for a while yet. 

The company was formed in the summer of 2016 and has been keeping its cards close to its chest ever since. 

neuralink website
The Neuralink website has very little information on their technology. Source: Neuralink

The wider public outside of the close-knit group of insiders has had to rely on the regular tantalizing comments made by Musk publicly about the company. Musk has described the need to create a “neural lace” device that’s capable of supercharging the human brain.

He has also said that such a device will help people combat existential threats from AI. Such a device would also allow humans to engage in what he called “consensual telepathy.”

Neuralink is Musk’s fourth company. He is also the CEO of Tesla, SpaceX, and OpenAI, a non-profit AI research company. He also leads a tunneling startup called The Boring Company.


via Top stories – Google News

May 12, 2019 at 02:43PM

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