(TMU) – In a series of tweets this week, the eccentric billionaire Elon Musk announced that the brain implant one of his companies is working on could cure mental illnesses like depression or addiction. Musk called the breakthrough both “great and terrifying,” and implied that nearly all of our mental processes are open to influence, considering that they are all nothing more than electrical impulses.
Musk announced that new details about the Neuralink project would be coming on August 28th and Twitter user Pranay Pathole asked about what the technology may be capable of.
“Can Neuralink be used to retrain the part of the brain which is responsible for causing addiction or depression? It’d be great if Neuralink can be used for something like addiction/ depression,” he asked, according to the Independent.
Musk replied, “For sure. This is both great and terrifying. Everything we’ve ever sensed or thought has been electrical signals. The early universe was just a soup of quarks and leptons. How did a very small piece of the universe start to think of itself as sentient?”
Musk has made similar claims in previous interviews. During his interview on the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast, Musk said that this device could allow humans to communicate telepathically.
“You wouldn’t need to talk. You would be able to communicate very quickly and with far more precision,” he said.
Musk’s assertions are controversial, but there are many scientists making the same predictions. According to a report published by the Royal Society of Science in 2019, neural interfaces could potentially allow people to communicate silently by reading each other’s minds.
“People could become telepathic to some degree, able to converse not only without speaking but without words – through access to each other’s thoughts at a conceptual level. Not only thoughts, but sensory experiences, could be communicated from brain to brain. Someone on holiday could beam a ‘neural postcard’ of what they are seeing, hearing, or tasting into the mind of a friend back home,” the report suggested.
However, this is a very advanced implementation of this technology that would come after significant development. First, the technology will be used to treat brain diseases like Parkinson’s and then scale up to more difficult problems from there.
Last year, Musk announced that his company was already having success with the implant during tests on animals. Human trials are already expected to begin this year.
The company will be inserting electrodes into human brains using a robot surgeon. The surgery will insert very fine threads into the brain, and the threads are covered in electrodes that will create a pathway for messages to and from the brain.
Musk said that the threads will work by recording the information being transmitted by neurons and synapses onto a tiny sensor, which can then be integrated with special software. He then revealed that the team has been testing the invention on primates, and were able to successfully augment a monkey’s brain with this technology.
Musk says that this technology is far less invasive than similar brain-computer interfaces on the market, and he hopes that this could be used to cure a variety of different brain disorders. However, in theory, this device can be integrated with artificial intelligence in a way where people could possibly “upload” things to their brain, kind of like how Neo in “The Matrix” learned Kung Fu from a computer.
Biden to Ban Menthol Cigarettes, Citing Health Impact on Youth and Black People
The Biden administration is reportedly planning to propose an immediate ban on menthol cigarettes, a product that has long been targeted by anti-smoking advocates and critics who claim that the tobacco industry has aggressively marketed to Black people in the U.S.
On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that the administration could announce a ban on menthol and other flavored cigarettes as soon as this week.
Roughly 85 percent of Black smokers use such menthol brands as Newport and Kool, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Research has also found that menthol cigarettes are easier to become addicted to and harder to quit than unflavored tobacco products, along with other small cigars popular with young people and African Americans.
Civil rights advocates claim that the decision should be greeted by Black communities and people of color who have been marketed to by what they describe as the predatory tobacco industry.
Black smokers generally smoke far less than white smokers, but suffer a disproportionate amount of deaths due to tobacco-linked diseases like heart attack, stroke, and other causes.
Anti-smoking advocates like Matthew L. Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, also greeted the move to cut out products that appeal to children and young adults.
“Menthol cigarettes are the No. 1 cause of youth smoking in the United States,” he said. “Eliminating menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars used by so many kids will do more in the long run to reduce tobacco-related disease than any action the federal government has ever taken.”
However, groups including the American Civil Liberties Group (ACLU) has opposed the move, citing the likelihood that such an action could lead to criminal penalties arising from the enforcement of a ban hitting communities of color hardest.
In a letter to administration officials, the ACLU and other groups including the Drug Policy Alliance said that while the ban is “no doubt well-intentioned” it would also have “serious racial justice implications.”
“Such a ban will trigger criminal penalties, which will disproportionately impact people of color, as well as prioritize criminalization over public health and harm reduction,” the letter explained. “A ban will also lead to unconstitutional policing and other negative interactions with local law enforcement.”
Pollution Is Making Human Penises Shrink and Causing a Collapse of Fertility, Scientists Say
With many still scoffing at the idea of rampant pollution posing a threat to humanity, a new study could drastically change the conversation: the chemicals across our environment could be the cause of shrinking human penises.
According to a new book by Dr. Shanna H. Swan, conditions in the modern world are quickly altering the reproductive development of humans and posing a threat to our future as a species.
The argument is laid out in her new book Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race.
The book discusses how pollution is not only leading to skyrocketing erectile dysfunction rates and fertility decline, but also an expansion in the number of babies born with small penises.
While it may seem like good fodder for jokes, the research could portend a grim future for humanity’s ability to survive.
Swan co-authored a study in 2017 that found sperm counts had precipitously fallen in Western countries by 59 percent between 1973 and 2011. In her latest book, Swan blames chemicals for this crisis in the making.
“Chemicals in our environment and unhealthy lifestyle practices in our modern world are disrupting our hormonal balance, causing various degrees of reproductive havoc,” she wrote in the new book.
“In some parts of the world, the average twentysomething woman today is less fertile than her grandmother was at 35,” she also wrote, noting that men could have only half the sperm count of their grandfathers.
Swan blames the disruption on phthalates, the chemicals used in plastic manufacturing that also have an impact on how the crucial hormone endocrine is produced
However, experts note that the proper implementation of pollution reduction measures could help humanity prevent the collapse of human fertility.
Visualizing The World’s Deadliest Pandemics By Population Impact
Humanity has been battling against disease for centuries.
And while most contagious outbreaks have never reached full-blown pandemic status, Visual Capitalist’s Carmen Ang notes that there have been several times throughout history when a disease has caused mass devastation.
Here’s a look at the world’s deadliest pandemics to date, viewed from the lens of the impact they had on the global population at the time.
Editor’s note: The above graphic was created in response to a popular request from users after viewing our popular history of pandemics infographic initially released a year ago.
Death Toll, by Percent of Population
In the mid-1300s, a plague known as the Black Death claimed the lives of roughly 200 million people – more than 50% of the global population at that time.
Here’s how the death toll by population stacks up for other significant pandemics, including COVID-19 so far.
The specific cause of the Black Death is still up for debate. Many experts claim the 14th-century pandemic was caused by a bubonic plague, meaning there was no human-to-human transmission, while others argue it was possibly pneumonic.
Interestingly, the plague still exists today – however, it’s significantly less deadly, thanks to modern antibiotics.
History Repeats, But at Least We Keep Learning
While we clearly haven’t eradicated infection diseases from our lives entirely, we’ve at least come a long way in our understanding of what causes illness in the first place.
In ancient times, people believed gods and spirits caused diseases and widespread destruction. But by the 19th century, a scientist named Louis Pasteur (based on findings by Robert Koch) discovered germ theory – the idea that small organisms caused disease.
What will we discover next, and how will it impact our response to disease in the future?
Like this? Check out the full-length article The History of Pandemics
Republished from ZH with permission.