Technology billionaire Elon Musk said Tuesday that he hoped to implant internet-connected devices into human brains as early as next year, The Verge reports.
Musk claimed the technology would help treat a host of neurological diseases that affect brain function, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, per The Hill.
Musk said the company hoped to shift from a drilling method to access brains to a less-intrusive laser method, per The New York Times. He added that the company will partner with Stanford University neuroscientists for its early human testing stages, and said he hoped to have the first human implementation completed as soon as next year.
The Tesla founder said that Neuralink has already had unintended successes with its animal trials. He said that a monkey was already able to control a computer using its brain.
The 49-year-old said the goal of the experiments is to create a symbiosis between human intelligence and artificial intelligence, and that the company was not interested in taking over people’s brains.
“It’s not going to be suddenly Neuralink will have this neural lace and start taking over people’s brains,” Musk said, per The Verge.
He went on to say that the press conference and Q&A that followed the event was meant to serve as recruitment for the company.
The effort is part of Musk’s Neuralink, a neurotechnology company that develops implantable brain-computer interfaces, though representatives for the company noted there was still a lengthy FDA approval process ahead before the company could begin human trials. In the meantime, Neuralink is currently experimenting on rats.
Elon Musk announces plan to 'merge' human brains with AI. https://t.co/yinixr0wKs— VICE (@VICE) July 17, 2019
As The Verge notes, Neuralink is not the first group to attempt to merge human and machine. In 2006, a computer implant was put into a paralyzed man’s brain, allowing him to play Pong using only his mind. Other attempts have shown promise in helping paralyzed people move robotic limbs and bringing objects into focus.
The technology that the San Fransisco company uses differs slightly in that it would use flexible “threads” to implant into a human brain, which has less potential to cause brain damage over other methods. The Verge report said the threads would be thinner than a human hair, and that around 100 would be implanted into the brain.
According to Bloomberg Businessweek, the company has been tight-lipped about its projects since it was founded in 2017.
In addition to his work with Neuralink, Musk is also CEO of electric car company Tesla and Space X, a private space exploration company.