If Elon Musk has his way, neural lace can be the answer for a lot of neurological questions that are still unanswered
Ever wondered that the next gadget for sending messages to your friends would not be a watch strapped to your wrist or a phone stuffed in your pocket—but an electronic device embedded in your brain? Though it sounds straight out of a sci-fi movie, the concept of neural lace, if substantiated, can be a game changer in the field of artificial intelligence. In layman’s terms, neural lace can be understood as an ultra-thin mesh that when implanted in the skull forms a collection of electrodes that are capable of altering brain functions. At its most basic form, it is an interface between the brain and the machine. It is inserted in the skull through a tiny needle that injects the rolled-up mesh, which gradually is accepted by the brain as a part of it and may also move and change sizes very slightly.
Neuralink, the brain-computer interface company which is Elon Musk’s latest venture and according to The Wall Street Journal, it aims to connect computers to your brain through the use of neural lace. It is suggested that Musk wants to ensure that humans can keep up with technology in the midst of rapid AI development. Talking about Neural Lace, Elon Musk said, “It would serve as a digital layer above the cortex. Its components wouldn’t necessarily require brain surgery for implantation; instead, the hardware could be injected into the jugular and travel to the brain through the bloodstream.”
“It’s not going to be suddenly Neuralink will have this neural lace and start taking over people’s brains,” Musk said. “Ultimatelyto achieve a symbiosis with artificial intelligence.” And that even in a “benign scenario,” humans would be “left behind.” Hence, he wants to create technology that allows a “merging with AI.” He later added “we are a brain in a vat, and that vat is our skull,” and so the goal is to read neural spikes from that brain.
The first big advance for Neuralink is that the ‘threads’ being used are 4 to 6 μm in width, which is considerably thinner than a human hair and are less likely to damage the brain compared to the materials currently used in brain-machine interfaces. Also transferring a higher volume of data becomes a possibility.
This, if proved brain friendly, would mean an altogether new life for those suffering from neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and other brain disorders, which might even be life-altering. Also, for those with missing limbs, neural lace can help use ‘connected’ artificial body parts unassisted by using this new brain power. It surely will be a welcome step to see neural lace help those with neurodegenerative condition to regain their ability to eat, walk and even talk.
Along with the obvious medical benefits, neural lace can also build on the relationship between human and machine and help them get a lot closer. Wirelessly communicating with an intelligent computer will surely be a possibility provided that the mesh is inserted and accepted by the brain, providing an interface with the computer.
Undoubtedly, it would be interesting to see the path being paved by neural lace and the role it will play in both the medical and the technological advancements linked to artificial intelligence.