Elon Musk set to demonstrate device that lets human brains control computers

Billionaire owner of Tesla Elon Musk is set to try out a revolutionary new technology that links human brains to computers.

Mr Musk has said more than once that the only way that mankind can hope to compete with the coming AI revolution is to match artificial intelligences on their own terms.

Which is why he launched his brain-hacking company, Neuralink in 2017. Just over a year ago, tests of the device implanted into a monkey’s brain showed that the animal could control a computer with its thoughts.

The company applied to start human trials last year and plans to demonstrate the first results later today. The demonstration is expected to involve a robot and "neurons firing in real time.”

The Neuralink device consists of a tiny probe containing more than 3,000 microscopic electrodes. They are implanted on the surface of the brain by a “sewing machine” device allowing two-way communication between the human and the computer.

Musk has made all sorts of claims for the technology, saying it could “extend [the] range of hearing beyond normal frequencies and amplitudes,” stream music directly into a human memory or tell the brain to secrete oxytocin, serotonin or other chemicals.

He has also promise that Neuralink would help humans achieve more sophisticated reasoning as well as relief from anxiety.

But the long-term goal is to take on AI. “My assessment about why AI is overlooked by very smart people,” says Musk, “is that very smart people do not think a computer can ever be as smart as they are.”

"And this is hubris and obviously false. We are headed toward a situation where AI is vastly smarter than humans and I think that time frame is less than five years from now.

"But that doesn't mean that everything goes to hell in five years. It just means that things get unstable and weird."

Musk says that by being able to enhance the human mind to match – or even out-think – artificial intelligences we will be able to avoid this instability and weirdness.

But Ari Benjamin, at the University of Pennsylvania's Kording Lab, told BBC News that getting the data out of the brain is less than half the story: “"Once they have the recordings, Neuralink will need to decode them and will someday hit the barrier that is our lack of basic understanding of how the brain works, no matter how many neurons they record from.”

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