Daniel Lombardo and Gelsson Ortiz
Elon Musk, co-founder of companies Tesla, SpaceX, and PayPal, is launching yet a new startup, this time for neuro-tech. However, this company is unlike anything Musk has ever been involved in before. What is NeuraLink, and more important, how does he plan to run this company while running Tesla and SpaceX?
The startup, NeuraLink, is a company focused on linking the brain and computer without having to go through an operation. According to the MIT Technology Review, NeuraLink was founded in 2015 by two professors, Pedram Mohseni of Case Western Reserve University and Randolph Nudo of Kansas University Medical Center. The researchers were working on a neural lace technology that would help people with brain injuries by communicating with machines without having to go “through a physical interface” (Muoio, 2017). Without knowing billionaire Musk was behind it, the two had sold the name NeuraLink to him for tens of thousands of dollars.
Musk has stated there are multiple applications to brain-computer interface technology. The practical use would be allowing humans to stay healthy and reaping the benefits of computer software updates. According to The Journal, the first devices could be used to treat diseases such as depression and epilepsy. Modern day treatment for neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s does exist, but NeuraLink’s technology would provide much more than just treatment of certain conditions. Additionally, the chips could improve memory and drastically increase cognitive processing abilities.
This isn’t the first time Musk has brought up the idea of merging the human brain with neural lace; he mentioned that neural lace would be able to give humans an artificially-powered connection without the need for surgery Musk believes it is imperative for the future of mankind that humans develop alongside AI technology. This doesn’t necessarily mean that he believes in a man vs. robot doomsday event, but he does feel that in order to become what he describes as a “multi-planetary species,” we must merge brain and computer.
Musk will approach this goal through the more realistic aim of symptom control before pursuing total man-machine convergence. This takes on a similar narrative to Musk’s other companies in that he begins with a small operation focused on profitability, and accumulates business until it is a massive R&D machine aimed at accomplishing the impossible.
This means that he won’t be making the revolutionary merger of man and machine that many sources have claimed he would make right away. This “neural lace” brain implant would ultimately connect a person’s brain to various control devices and could hypothetically be used to improve a person’s memory since it would be able to increase a brain’s storage capacity.
One wonders, however, how Musk will accomplish his brilliant goal while also having to balance the workload of Tesla and SpaceX. Will Musk focus more on NeuraLink than the latter two? I would imagine, if Musk were to direct all of his effort and resources to Neuralink, he will delegate the key decisions of his other companies to his closest and most trusted executives. If he decides to maintain control over Tesla/SpaceX and balance time between the three, it seems most plausible to hire experts in the brain-chip technology field to lead the future success of Neuralink. Regardless of Musk’s management strategy, it’s safe to say all three companies are, at least, in competent hands.