Elon Musk, billionaire maverick and founder of Tesla (TSLA) and SpaceX, has confirmed plans to launch a new company called Neuralink Corp.
First, the company is looking to develop "neural lace technology," which involves implanting tiny electrodes that allow for the uploading and downloading of thoughts to a computer, and further treat conditions such as Parkinson's, epilepsy or paralysis. Longer term it will also work on improving human cognitive function, so that with the eventual rise of artificial intelligence, humans do not become reduced to "house cats,'" in Musk's own words. When the Wall Street Journal first reported the story in late March, Musk tweeted to say that he's doing this because of the "existential risk," of AI. (See also: Should Elon Musk Let Someone Else Run Tesla? )
Long Neuralink piece coming out on @waitbutwhy in about a week. Difficult to dedicate the time, but existential risk is too high not to.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 28, 2017
This is not an unexpected move. In February Musk spoke at the World Government Summit in Dubai and said, “Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence,". At Vox Media's Code conference last year, Musk brought up the the benefits of the 'neural lace' which could connect to a computer without the need for an input method like a keyboard or trackpad, but simply through an implanted chip in the brain.
Engadget says that Musk has reportedly recruited experts in the field over the past few months. These include Dr. Vanessa Tolosa who is a flexible electrodes and nanotechnology expert, Prof.Philip Sabes, who previously participated in the Beneficial AI conference sponsored by Musk, and Prof.Timothy Gardner of Boston University who studies the neural pathways of songbirds.
Musk is not alone in the race to bring human and computer intelligence closer. One day before Musk's comments, Facebook (FB) announced it is researching the same subject in its secretive hardware division called Building 8. "What if you could type directly from you brain?" was the question Regina Dugan — the leader of the Building 8 team — asked at a Facebook developer conference, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Both Neuralink and Facebook are reportedly looking for a variety of engineers for their new projects.