Neuralink and the Future of Medicine

Neuralink and the Future of Medicine

Sep 9th 2019

Photo by Robina Weermeijer on Unsplash

Neuralink is Elon Musk's latest venture, focused not on cars or FinTech, but rather in medicine. Current work for the company is centered on developing "threads" providing an efficient brain-computer interface possibly offering quicker and more versatile ways of treating sensory loss, providing another means for quadriplegic and limited-mobility individuals to work with robotic prosthetics, and maybe even creating some sort of symbiosis between AI and the brain.

Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash

The idea rests on placing microscopic plastic-electronic threads on the brain through invasive surgery (although the idea of non-invasive electrodes has been considered). Progress has been made on rats as subjects (and rumor has it work has been done on primates as well) and the company hopes to move to human trials in the coming year.

The venture faces some obstacles involving designing entire brain-computer interfaces that have not yet been explored, ensuring a safe and quick procedure, and maintaining material stability of the implants to ensure longevity within the human body.

MRIs and the like will likely remain in use as they provide more physical-structural information about the body and brain, but Neuralink aims to extract more internal data that may likely push neuroscience ahead.

More practical, and necessitating rapid commercialization, Neuralink will have to present deliverables if it wants to make itself more relevant than just a news headline. Work with universities and laboratories will ensure some academic progress and papers will be produced, but whether the company itself and widespread use will be adopted is another question. 

Nevertheless, there may be a future where humans and computers work with each other, rather than for each other.