Neuralink, the company started by Elon Musk, has attracted praise and something approaching merriment in equal measure. Some of his conversations about the potential of Neuralink make you scratch your head and wonder if he is even dafter than we all thought.
Why, for instance, do we need to step up the speed at which we input data into a computer? Or stream music straight into our brain when we have perfectly good ears? We are suffering from too much data, so what is the benefit of getting loads more data into our brain for processing.
Then Neuralink released a video of a monkey playing a video game using the system, which transmits information from 2,000 electrodes in the brain. Initially, the monkey was trained to use a joystick, but it graduated to playing the game just with its mind.
When you read that, you have that now familiar feeling that the man is insane and brilliant all at once.
The real ‘Aha’ moment about Neuralink comes in the form of a humble tweet. One day, the tweet goes, a person with paraplegia will be able to control his or her arms and legs so that they can walk ‘normally’.
That is brilliant and the potential is instantly in front of you.
Then, of course, you begin to ponder the dark side. Every game-changing invention has come about through scientists seeing how the invention could improve the state of the world. And most of them have been harnessed to reduce it to rubble.
Neuralink is different. And no different.
The Neuralink system is not a ‘thing’ in itself, and it is controlling something far more powerful than before. It is literally messing with the mind.
Who knows, once the initial excitement has worn off and the disabled are walking again, what version 4.0 might be able to do. Train people as karate black belts overnight? Control other people’s minds (remember the US military experiments with remote viewing and control)? Absorb coding on the dark web overnight? Become a black belt hacker in minutes?
Whether it will ever get to that potential, and of course, such a suggestion about Neuralink would be strenuously denied now. It does just make you wonder whether this kind of invention is opening another Pandora’s Box.