Neuroimplants to increase our intellectual capacities. It is the dream announced by Elon Musk and Bryan Johnson with their respective companies: Neuralink and Kernel.

And yes, “The first step will be to repair brain injuries. It could help paraplegic or quadriplegic people by implanting a neural circuit from the motor cortex to the paralyzed muscles” Musk said at the press conference to present his company back in 2016. 

For his part, Johnson is hoping that people with cognitive disorders will be the first to try out his implants. Today, it is the most that can be achieved in the United States, according to the legislation of the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) regarding the amplification of human brains. The second step, however, would be to use AI within those implants to multiply the possibilities of our mind… or to influence them from outside.

And the race to achieve this began without us knowing…

“We are all cyborgs now. Our phone and all the applications we use are an extension of ourselves… By far, we have more power and more capabilities (enhanced by technology) than the president of the United States had thirty years ago”, Musk says.

His fear, as he has confessed on several occasions, is that the AI soon surpasses the human one, and, for that reason, he thinks that it is crucial to boost the brain with learning algorithms to be more competitive with machines. Something along the lines of joining the invincible enemy.

Update on Neuralink

As for Neuralink progress, their latest unveiling happened last  August 28th. Where they presented a new chip design, a full-scale surgical robot, and a group of test pig subjects that he and his team have been testing the implant on. 

Neuralink also received a Breakthrough Device designation (a voluntary program for certain medical devices and device-led combination products that provide for more effective treatment or diagnosis of life-threatening or irreversibly debilitating diseases or conditions) from the FDA in July this year. They are now preparing for its first human implantation, awaiting required approvals and safety testing. If they successfully get to this stage, that would be an enormous step for humanity.

Biology and Ethics: the ultimate incognito

Truth is neuroscience doesn’t even have a consistent theory of consciousness yet, which makes it hard to build a device to read from it, let alone write onto it. Technology is of course key to this advancement but it isn’t the only subject in play. At some point, the constraint turns to be biology, not technology. 

Additionally, the ethical implications of all this are worrying. How can this type of technology be properly regulated?  Will this be something only available to the rich? Perhaps we will solve neurological disorders from memory, hearing loss, and blindness to paralysis, depression, and brain damage? Or will we become slaves of someone who dictates instructions directly to our mind from the outside? 

The list of questions associated with this issue has only just begun.

Thanks for reading The Low Down (TLD), the blog by the team at Momentum Works. Got a different perspective or have a burning opinion to share? Let us know at hello@mworks.asia.