What’s Up Wednesday 7/17/19

Brain Computer Teather?

Is it actually now feasible for humans to create an interface with which a computer can connect directly to the human mind?  That’s what Elon Musk’s latest startup is attempting to do.

The startup is called Neuralink and the idea is that a chip connected by ultra-thin threads directly to the brain’s neurons can provide humans with the ability to deal with various brain related afflictions that currently have no solution.  Things like spinal cord injuries, blindness, and neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, dementia, etc.

A robot will quickly, efficiently, and safely insert the threads into the brain.  Eventually, the Neuralink procedure is supposed to be about as invasive as a Lasik procedure.  Once the chip is attached to the brain’s neurons, it will connect via Bluetooth to a smartphone and permit the user to easily control input and output.

This obviously is an ambitious plan.  Human computer interaction has taken many forms over the years.  We’ve seen interfaces grow more and more user friendly –early on interaction with computers required a punch-card; over time, this transformed into text via the keyboard, graphics with the help of a mouse, touchscreens, and finally voice input.  And there have been different forms of many of these items including desktop computers, smartphones, tablets, Alexa type devices, smart watches, Google Glass, etc.

Elon’s idea may prove to be the next evolutionary step in the interface game.  But it seems more revolutionary than evolutionary.  Directly connecting to the human mind has been a decades-long endeavor – and thus far, it has produced limited functionality.  Will this latest startup be any different?  That’s the big question.  Certainly sounds interesting and if anyone can make a go of it, a Silicon Valley startup seems likely to be the source of success.  Musk however seems be spreading himself increasingly thin – with the perpetual formation of companies that attempt to address futuristic problems that lie well outside the mainstream (and you could easily argue that his attention needs to be on issues relating to the viability of his existing businesses – like Tesla which can’t seem to produce vehicles without bleeding money all over the pavement).  This startup seems to be another of his diversions.  Like they say, time will tell.

It’s hard not to get at least a little excited when imagining the possibilities of such innovation.  This one needs to be a success regardless of how long it takes.

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