Tesla's owner Elon Musk showcased a pig named Gertrude with a coin-sized computer chip in her brain to demonstrate his plans to create a brain-to-machine interface.
The device is a product of Musk's startup Neuralink. In an event live-streamed on YouTube, the entrepreneur explained that it was recording signals from an area of Gertrude's brain linked to her snout. By the time of the demonstration, Gertrude and two other pigs have had the implant for two months already.
When Gertrude and her peers' snout touched objects, an array of dots and a series of noises indicated when more neurons were firing. Pigs' snouts are a sensitive instrument as a large part of their brains are devoted to the snout. "It's like a Fitbit in your skull with tiny wires,'' the billionaire explained.
Musk founded Neuralink in 2016 with the idea to create a wireless brain-machine interface to cure dementia, Parkinson's disease, and spinal injuries. It would also allow people with paralysis to control a computer mouse.
In July 2019, Musk unveiled a design that involved implanting tiny electrode ''threads'' into the brain as well as a second device behind the ear. The innovative device Neuralink launched Friday is much smaller, does not call for a visible ear device. It can be implemented in the brain by a surgical robot under local anesthesia.
Musk showed another pig, named Dorothy, saying that her device was removed. Dorothy proves that you put in the implant, remove it, and be a healthy pig again, Musk noted.
Asked why he chose pigs for the experiment, Musk said that ''pigs are quite similar to people.'' If the device can last two months in a pig, the chances are high that it will be robust for people too, Musk added.
While the innovative wireless chip's primary goal is medical, Musk also hoped it could help human intelligence compete with artificial intelligence. The Tesla owner has always been concerned about artificial intelligence calling it '' an existential threat.''
The device has not been tested in humans yet. The US Food and Drug Administration has designated it a breakthrough device, meaning that it would get feedback from the watchdog throughout the development process, Musk said.
Sid Kouider, founder and CEO of NextMind, a Neuralink competitor, did not share Musk's enthusiasm. He highlighted the increased health risks of invasive transplants, including infection, inflammation, and follow-up surgery to adapt the electrode positioning.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with the criticism of the Neurolink's competitor?