Directly linking thoughts to a phone via Bluetooth — what could go wrong?
Technologist Elon Musk has unveiled a plan for embedding Bluetooth-enabled implants into a human brain, to enable disabled persons to regain motor and cognitive function. IT experts however noted that along with FDA approval, the idea faces hurdles in the form of significant scrutiny on the cybersecurity front.
Neuralink devices are tiny chips that would be interconnected with the brain’s organic neural network via 1,000 wispy wires measuring one-tenth the width of a human hair. They would be implanted by a DARPA-developed “sewing robot”, who, while the patient is under local anesthesia, would drill a 2-millimeter hole (the old-fashioned way or via laser) into the skull. The chip itself would plug the hole after implantation.
“The interface to the chip is wireless, so you have no wires poking out of your head. That’s very important,” Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, explained at a launch event for the company on Tuesday. He added that he expects the procedure to be about as invasive as LASIK is for vision correction — and as pervasively available to the masses.
While brain-computer interfaces have been a reality since 2006 (when Matthew Nagel used one to play Pong, essentially with his mind), Musk’s vision differs in a few critical ways. For one, the implants would connect to a smartphone app. Secondly, AI would be a big part of the secret sauce.
The idea is that stroke victims, cancer patients, paralyzed persons and others would be able reap the benefits of a direct neuronal connection linking a patient’s brain to, say, an iPhone — enabling the patient to control it without having to tap, speak, type or swipe.
AI meanwhile would fulfill a bridging role in human thought patterns for those who need a boost. With no middle man between thought and device (such as the requirement to form words and actual speech), it’s possible in theory to overcome some of the deep cognitive issues arising from physical trauma or disease. For instance, stroke victims who can visualize what they want to say, but can’t verbalize it, could rely on the AI to fill the gaps by translating the thoughts into words on the phone.