Tech Talk: 'It's All In Your Head'
Runaway Melody / Nalau Nobel / Unsplash.com
America has seen a complete evolution of the portability of headphones over the years, progressing from Koss’s two-pound stereo headphones sold in the late 1960s to the light-as-a-feather earbuds that are popular today. But a new device in the making by technology mogul Elon Musk could entirely revolutionize the listening experience beyond anything we’ve ever known. San Francisco-based neurotechnological company Neuralink, Musk’s new startup, is working on developing a brain computer interface that would allow users to stream music directly to their brain—headphones need not apply. The announcement came in an exchange between Musk and computer scientist Austin Howard on Twitter.
The world is awaiting further developments on this music-streaming chip, which is slated to be shared August 28, but there’s another chip, the N1, that Musk spoke publicly about last year. The uses of N1 venture more into health care, with one of its potential uses being to regulate hormone levels, which could be used to help the user (or patient) with skill-building, improving judgement and anxiety relief. He also explained that it may have uses in mental health, and could help with retraining brain patterns that are characteristic of depression or addiction, and stimulating the release of oxytocin, serotonin and other chemicals to help those with obsessive compulsive disorder. But, he said that the ultimate goal of Neuralink is to make it so that humans can “compete” with artificial intelligence. According to The Sun, the company intends to develop a full brain interface within the next 25 years, meaning that people will be able to connect to their personal devices using their minds.
Like something out of The Matrix, Musk explained that N1 works by creating a direct connection between a computer and the human brain. To do so, a one-inch implant containing the chip would be surgically inserted into a person’s brain through a two-inch incision that requires a piece of the skull to be removed. A neurological robot would then fit flexible “threads” that are 10 times smaller than a human hair, which would be connected directly into the brain and the chip. And despite the seemingly invasiveness of the surgery, Musk explained that the process is similar to Lasik eye surgery and would take less than an hour. Neuralink announced last year that it planned to start human trials in 2020, but an update on this has not since been released.
Danielle Renda is associate editor of PPB.