Yesterday, at the much hyped Neuralink event, its founder Elon Musk was at his witty best as he gave a demo of what Neuralink has built over the past year. Here we bring 10 of the best moments from Musk’s presentation.
1| “It’s kind of like Fitbit in your skull with tiny wires.”
Addressing the size and functionality of the brain implant, Elon Musk likened “THE LINK”, to a fitbit inside the head. Users can connect the device to their smartphone via bluetooth and read the data coming from the brain and even operate the device too.
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2| “I could have a Neuralink right now and you wouldn’t know.”
Unlike its predecessors, Neuralink’s device is sleek and can remain invisible to others. It has a thickness of 8mm; the thickness of the skull is approximately 10mm. And the Link can be comfortably mounted on the skull, glued and even charged without any hassles. Indicating the ingenuity of the design engineers at Neuralink, Musk quipped that we wouldn’t be knowing if he already had one of these mounted on him.
3| “You can go to hospital in the morning and leave by afternoon. And it can be done without general anesthesia.”
Musk gave his presentations alongside a surgical robot, which is designed to open up the skull, place the implant and glue it back. All in an hour’s time. Musk went on record saying that those who would be getting an implant wouldn’t even require general anesthesia. One can walk into the hospital in the morning and leave by noon.
4| “We have pigs on a treadmill.”
The Neuralink team experimented their device on pigs; three of which have been brought to the demo day. To verify the efficacy of the device, the team made these brain implanted pigs— tagged with sensors on limbs— to walk on a treadmill. They then traced the activity in the brain by taking readings from the neurons and predicting the position of the joints. And then measure the actual position of the joints with remarkable accuracy.
5| “We have received FDA breakthrough device designation.”
One of the key hurdles for Neuralink had been to get approval from the US food and drug association(FDA). This was a problem last year. Musk in his presentation announced that Neuralink has received FDA breakthrough designation and they are working towards significantly exceeding the minimum FDA guidelines for safety.
6| “In the long term, it is possible to restore full body motion.”
When asked about applications of the Link, Musk said that if you can sense what somebody’s trying to do with their limbs then you can actually do a second implant that’s at the base of the spine. Wherever the spinal injury occurred and you can create a neural shunt. So, I think in the long term it will be possible to restore somebody’s full-body motion
7| “We can save and replay memories. The future is going to be weird.”
Musk said that he thinks in the future we will be able to save and replay memories. “I mean this is obviously sounding increasingly like a black mirror episode but yeah essentially if you have a whole brain interface everything that’s encoded in memory you could you could upload you could basically store your memories as a backup and restore the memories then ultimately you could potentially download them into a new body or into a robot body the future is going to be weird one!” said Musk.
8| “Number of electrodes will grow with the number of people in the company.”
The whole objective of the presentations, according to Musk, was to attract more people to work for them. Currently, the team is 100 strong and Musk expects it to multiply soon. “… about 100 people right now i think over years there might be 10,000 or more people at Neuralink. Probably the number of electrodes will grow with the number of people at the company,” he quipped.
9| “We are Hydrogen, evolved.”
What I find remarkable is that the universe started out as quarks and leptons, reminded Musk ,when asked if Neuralink can solve consciousness. “Somewhere along the way Hydrogen started talking and thought it was conscious. The hydrogen became sentient it gradually got more complex,” he added.
10| “It is easy to make pigs happy.”
But why pigs? The reasoning behind the team’s weird choice for experimentation is the similarities the pigs have to offer. For example, the thickness of the skull in pigs is close to that of humans. They are quite robust creatures like little tanks. They bustle around quite a lot and they bump into things and they headbutt each other at times and they’re pretty animated so if the device is lasting in the pig then that’s a good sign that the device is robust for people. Furthermore, pigs are easy to please. All they need is food. It becomes easy to work with them. They can even be put on a treadmill!