(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.
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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.