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Elon Musk-backed Neuralink reveals brain-implant technology

Elon Musk’s company NeuraLink has applied to US regulators to start trialling its device on humans.

NeuraLink is working towards creating a wireless implantable device that would allow paralysed humans to control phones or computers using their minds.

The Tesla-founder made the announcement at the California Academy of Sciences event in San Francisco on Tuesday. He added that he founded the startup for the purpose of fighting off what he considers to be the “existential threat” of artificial intelligence taking over humanity.

“I think this is going to be important at a civilization-wide scale,” Musk said at the event. “Even under a benign AI, we will be left behind. With a high bandwidth brain-machine interface, we will have the option to go along for the ride.”

According to Musk, the advantage of this system on already existing brain interfaces would be that it would be able to target very specific areas of the brain, making it surgically safer. The new system would also be able to analyse recordings using machine learning, which would then choose what type of stimulation to give a patient.

During a Q&A at the end of the event, Musk also revealed the new technology had been tested on monkeys, with the animal being able to control a computer with its brain.

The firm is putting together a submission to start human testing as early as 2020, Musk said, which will need to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.

This version of the device would be “only intended for patients with serious unmet medical diseases”, said Dr Matthew McDougall, Neuralink’s head neurosurgeon.

Specifically, the first clinical trial will target patients with complete paralysis caused by the upper spinal cord and will involve installing four of Neuralink’s implants in patients’ brains.

NeuraLink also released a white paper to coincide with the announcement, but it has not been peer-reviewed yet, making the technology still not an “official” scientific breakthrough.

However, Musk said, “This [technology] has a very good purpose, which is to cure diseases, and ultimately secure humanity’s future.”

Image via PXhere.

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