Neuralink

Over the last decade, wearable gadgets have become an essential part of our day to day lives. Ranging from smart watches to cutting edge medical monitoring instruments these tiny gadgets are proving to be a boon for humanity.Taking a huge leap further, the visionary business tycoon , Elon Musk added a new feather in his cap by announcing his latest creation ‘Neuralink’. For a little background, Neuralink was founded by Elon Musk in     2016  as an experiment to bridge the gap between technology and neuroscience .In the recent event, Elon Musk revealed the neuralink device and told the world about it, let’s dive deeper and take a look at what neuralink is.

                                                                     The link

Neuralink has developed a coin-sized device known as the ‘link’ which gets implanted directly inside the human skull and it’s 1024 electrodes are inserted surgically at specific locations in the brain to mimic the charge produced by the neurons. Hence, we can artificially give our brain the command to perform a specific task, sounds scary , doesn’t it? Well, in case you’re wondering about that like every other electronic device, how will the link power itself? It actually has a Lithium ion battery which has an all day long battery life and also it can be charged inductively (wireless charging) so that you don’t look like a cyborg with a wire attached to your skull while charging it.

As mentioned earlier, the link is a coin sized device which is implanted directly into the brain and the best part is, it’s not even visible once implanted!

The process

Anything that deals with man-handling the brain is a very risky process, let alone surgically cutting open the skull, insert 1024 hair thin electrodes in precise spots and sealing the device properly. This whole process require a lot of expertise and leaves no room for errors as the person’s life would be severely affected if anything goes wrong. Hence, to avoid all this fiasco , Neuralink has come up with an innovative idea and has developed specialized robots to handle all the surgeries. The robots are programmed using cutting edge Machine vision software that leaves no room for errors. Also, placing 1024 electrodes into the specific parts of the brain sounds like a tedious and time-taking process but in reality, it’s just the opposite. As per Neuralink’s official statements. You could have the link implanted inside your head in less than 90 minutes, that’s really quick considering the complicacies of the whole surgery. Also to mention, this whole process of planting the link will be done without using anaesthesia. So the person going through the surgery will be lying wide awake while an electronic device in planted inside his/her brain. Sounds scary, right?

The current status

During the demo event of the link, Elon Musk demonstrated 3 different pigs, one without the implant, one that had it’s implant removed and one pig which had 2 implants. Furthermore he demonstrated that the pig with 2 implants had one in it’s snout and the implant sent signals in the form of beeps everytime the pig’s snout reacted to any smell.

The implant which is currently used in pigs will be shortly shifted to humans and Neuralink got it’s approval from the FDA for testing it on humans after a very long time.We really hope that during the next demo we could see real humans reaping the benefits of this device rather than some pigs.

Elon Musk said the company is looking to recruit robotics, electrical and software engineers to work on the device and refine the surgical procedure for the implementation. There’s been a lot of turnover at the company since it launched in 2017, and only two members of the founding team still work at Neuralink.

Musk said the device would be “quite expensive” when it first launches, but that he wants to get the price down to a few thousand dollars. “I think it should be possible to get it similar to Lasik,” he said..

Scope

Elon Musk said during the demo session that Neuralink was aimed to help patients who had physical disabilities. He further explained that physical disabilities like paralysis happen when the neural of the limbs get hampered from the brain i.e. the ‘wires’ get cut off from the brain, using Neuralink these ‘wires’ could be jumped over by planting one implant inside the brain and one at the neural junction of the limbs to facilitate communication and reconstruct the channel for communication between the limbs and the brain. Keep in mind that this is just a theory and no experiment like this has been ever done before so we can just hope for the best. Other than that, the link is also said to cure other mental illnesses like depression, addiction etc. These are also just speculations but looking at Elon Musk achievements, he might as well make it happen.

                        The uncertainties

Everytime a new technology hits the market, it comes up with it’s own share of doubts over it’s ethical use and what would happen if used in a wrong way and the Neuralink brings loads of these speculations. People have come up with with lots of concerns like in a world full of cyber crime and invasion of privacy, how can we be so sure that something that is controlling our whole body would be protected. Even the thought of a shady neuralink controlling our body sends chills down the spines of a lot of us. The security policy of the implant and the access that is given to the device of the body is still under consideration and we hope that the link comes up with strict ethics policies. Meanwhile, jokingly Elon Musk told the press that we could even play games using our mind given high speed transfer speed of the link. More about the link would be disclosed as more tests are conducted and more barriers are shattered but for now, the Neuralink is the hot topic in tech industry and something to watch out for.  

Credits:-

Medium.com

Theverge.com

Towardsai.net

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