WHAT IS NEUROTECHNOLOGY AND BRAIN-COMPUTER INTERFACE, THE TECH THAT ELON MUSK’S NEURALINK USES?

Depending on your perspective about Elon Musk, it seems that we have taken a giant leap forward to a romantic or dystopian future. Elon Musk, who has been in the headlines for the mess that Twitter is, demoed what one of his other companies, Neuralink, has been up to, and boy, was it something to behold.

We have something special here if everything goes according to Musk’s plan. Neuralink will either emerge as the single most revolutionary invention in modern medicine and biotechnology for decades, or Elon Musk just pulled off another Theranos-like scam.

Here’s everything you need to know about Neuralink, what it promises to do, and whether it will impact the future.

What is Neuralink?
Simply put, Neuralink is one of Elon Musk’s oldest projects. His vision was to create a new interface for humans to interact with computers that would deem all existing interface technologies – using a mouse, a keyboard, or touch screens – redundant. His idea was to let humans control a computer just by thought.

However, in pursuing a simple user interface, the engineers at Neuralink went on and achieved something even better. But more on this later.

What is Neurotechnology?
Neurotechnology, or Neuron-technology, is the next level of biomechanics and bioelectronics if Musk is to be believed. Neurotechnology is a method or electronic device that interfaces with the nervous system to monitor or modulate neural activity. We already have some form of Neurotechnology in our day-to-day lives – cochlear implants and retinal implants that enable deaf patients to hear a little and blind patients to have some level of sight. However, Musk claims that with the latest developments that Neuralink has made, Neurotechnology will make massive leaps.

 

What are brain-computer interfaces?
Brain–computer interface or a Brain-machine interface, in its most rudimentary form, allows humans to interact with computers by thought. Although this might seem too farfetched, there have been technologies that have allowed users to interact with computers without any physical I/O device. BCIs have also been used to augment or repair human cognitive or sensory-motor functions but minimally.

What Neuralink and Musk hope to do, is not just bring this technology to the masses and improve the quality of life for disabled and impaired individuals. Still, to enable the step of evolution in humans – with all our implants and medical devices, we are already becoming a hybrid between humans and robotics. Neuralink hopes to speed that process up.

What does Musk want Neuralink to achieve with the implementation of Neurotechnology?
Neurotechnology and Brain-computer interface are prohibitively expensive. That is why we only see their application in limited use. The most common use of this tech involves cochlear implants and retinal implants, but they are very limiting and do not function as a patient would hope. With such implants, patients only get a vague sense of what they are trying to perceive. For example, with retinal implants, patients can only see a harsh shadow of things, with most details lost in artifacts. Moreover, they are not able to see color. Cochlear implants, again, have the same limitations.

 

With Neuralink, Musk hopes these implants will get much better over time as more and more startups start working along with Neuralink.

 

Apart from augmenting damaged portions of the nervous system, not just the brain, Neuralink hopes to deal with memory loss, hearing loss, blindness, paralysis, insomnia, extreme pain, seizures, addiction, strokes, and brain tissue damage. More importantly, though, Musk hopes that Neuralink opens the world to a new way of computing and interacting with machines.

Imagine this – you sit inside a car that Elon Musk makes, say, a Tesla Model S, and think of where you want to go. The vehicle will drive you to the place while you’re busy thinking about other things and are getting it done as you feel – this is Musk’s bigger picture, put succinctly.

Will Neuralink revolutionize modern medicine?
As stated, the technology that Neuralink uses has been there for ages. What is new with Elon Musk’s company is that it has condensed the tech into a small implantable package and aims to distribute it to the masses in an affordable and upgradeable manner.

 

Depending on how the FDA trials and clinical trials go, Elon Musk’s Neuralink has the potential to revolutionize modern medicine truly. The tech will need a lot of support from third-party developers.

Or, it can turn out to be one of the biggest fugazi that the world has fallen for.

Remember how Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes promised they would revolutionize medical and blood tests forever? We hope that Musk isn’t digging a similar pit for himself.

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