understand everything about Elon Musk’s Neuralink project

A small chip for “abyssal questions”. Elon Musk estimated Wednesday that within six months his start-up Neuralink would be able to implant its first connected device in the brain of a human, to communicate with computers directly by thought. “Obviously we want to be very careful and to be sure that it will work well, but we have submitted all our documents to the FDA (the agency in charge of public health in the United States, editor’s note) and we believe that by six months we will be able to have our first implant in a human,” said the boss of Tesla, SpaceX (space shuttles) and other start-ups during a presentation of Neuralink’s progress.

“We are now confident that Neuralink’s device is ready for humans, so timing depends on FDA approval process,” he tweeted. the social network he bought a month ago. The billionaire is a regular at risky predictions, especially about the autonomy of Tesla electric cars.

What is Elon Musk’s goal?

“Its medium-term objective is to develop electronic chips implanted in our brains in such a way as to increase our intellectual capacity and our memory to allow us to fight, to be competitive against artificial intelligence”, notes Lawrence Alexanderessayist, high-tech specialist, author of numerous books including The war of intelligences.

Elon Musk “wants to make us smarter” indicates Laurent Alexandre recalling the remarks made by the billionaire in 2019. “He said that with Neuralink, we were going to merge artificial intelligence and man. Artificial intelligence would therefore be directly available inside our brain itself thanks to Neuralink implants”, he explains at the microphone of Europe 1.

How it works ?

Elon Musk is considering his project in two phases. A phase would restore mobility to paralyzed people, to “treat diseases like Alzheimer’s or neurodegenerative diseases”. The other phase plans “to bring out cyborgs”, assures the essayist. In July 2019, Elon Musk had estimated that Neuralink could carry out its first tests on individuals in 2020. But for now, the prototypes, the size of a coin about a centimeter wide, have been implanted. in the skull of animals. Several monkeys are thus able to “play” video games or “type” words on a screen, simply by following the movement of the cursor on the screen with their eyes.

Why is the project controversial?

Beyond the controversies over animal welfare, this new technology under development obviously raises ethical and political questions. What impact will the implant have on the brain? “If Neuralink deals with pathologies, it is clear that all countries will accept”, assures Laurent Alexandre but should we accept to put intracerebral implants in our brains? “Let’s imagine for a moment that Elon Musk’s technology works in 2030 or 2040, we can see that it would be unfair not to use this technology to equalize our cognitive performance,” he admits.

“We can clearly see that there are people who are more or less intelligent, more or less fast, if this technology worked, it would be unfair not to use it to level the playing field, to allow people who don’t have much of memory, for example to have more. Of course, that would pose the problem of who we implant? We can imagine a system where Social Security would reimburse the Neuralink implants to the less gifted children, who have poor results at school …”, he suggests before adding that this scenario would be “unequal”.

“It is rather the most gifted children who would benefit from this kind of technology, which would further increase the gap between the fastest kids and those less gifted, which would pose extremely serious political problems”, underlines the specialist high- tech at the microphone of Europe 1. These questions still remain unanswered but Laurent Alexandre assures him, “we are only at the very beginning of the abysmal philosophical and political questions which will arise for us with all these technologies acting on the brain “.

Another invention, a robot-surgeon

On Wednesday, Elon Musk and Neuralink engineers also took stock of the start-up’s latest advances in the development of the robot surgeon and the development of other implants, to be installed in the spinal cord or the eyes, to restore mobility or vision. Beyond the potential to treat neurological diseases, Elon Musk’s ultimate goal is to ensure that humans are not intellectually overwhelmed by artificial intelligence systems. Other companies are working on controlling computers by thought, such as Synchron, which announced in July that it had implanted the first brain-machine interface in the United States.

These last months, Elon Musk urged his employees to work faster. “We’ll all be dead before anything useful happens,” he told the Neuralink team during a meeting, according to Bloomberg. He recently fired more than half of Twitter’s staff, as well as social network executives who had expressed views contrary to his in public, and asked the remaining employees to commit to “extremely intense” work. The annual Neuralink conference is supposed to be used to generate vocations to recruit different specialists.

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