Elon Musk has a predilection for grandeur. The billionaire tech provocateur made his fortune as a founder of the revolutionary online-payments company PayPal, and since then, he has announced his intention to revolutionize cars, trains, space travel, intercontinental flight, and city driving. SpaceX, his aerospace company, has begun work on the infrastructure to beam internet access down to Earth from satellites in orbit around the planet. And this week, Musk shifted his public ambitions to his next target: the human brain.
Neuralink, a neurotechnology company owned by Musk, crept out of the corporate shadows Tuesday with a live-stream that included one of the founder’s signature big promises: The company is developing a device to implant inside the brain that supposedly will allow people to control computers and other devices with their mind. At the announcement, Musk said the company is on track to begin testing the implants in human patients as soon as next year.
In one sense, what Musk described during Neuralink’s debut sounds dazzling: threads, thinner than human hair, robotically inserted into the brain via skull holes bored by a laser that does not yet exist. The threads, according to Neuralink’s leadership, will be less likely to cause internal damage and able to transmit far more information than rigid implants currently available that allow people with physical disabilities to interact with computers. Once perfected, Musk said in his announcement, the host brain would “achieve a symbiosis with artificial intelligence.”