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Gertrude takes part in a science fiction experiment: la start-up d’Elon Musk, Neuralink, implanted a connected chip in the brain of this guinea pig, a prototype to manufacture the version for humans that will restore speech and mobility to paralyzed people.
“It's like a Fitbit (connected watch) in your skull”, Elon Musk enthused on Friday, at an online conference on the progress of his brain-to-computer interface project, which arouses a lot of skepticism in the scientific community.
The futuristic entrepreneur (Tesla, SpaceX) introduced a chip with ultra-fine wires a year ago, can be implanted in the brain by a robot – a kind of ultra-precise sewing machine.
The new model, wireless thanks to bluetooth technology, recharges at night and measures 23 mm diameter (like a small coin) sure 8 mm thick.
In theory, the round chip will be implanted in the brain, without the need to spend a night in the hospital, and without leaving a trace, if it is not a small scar under the hair.
It will primarily be used to treat neurological diseases. But the long term goal is to make the implants so safe, reliable and simple that they would fall under elective surgery (of comfort).
People could then spend a few thousand dollars to equip their brains with computing power..
For the moment, in Neuralink laboratories, the pig Gertrude walks on a treadmill, snout in a manger hanging in front of her, while the chip retransmits its neurological signals.
From this information, the computer is able to predict at any time where each of its members are. What gives hope to restore mobility to paraplegics.
In the event of a spinal cord injury, we could implant another chip at the site of the injury, and bypass “transmission circuits” damaged, imagine ainsi Elon Musk. “On the long term, I'm sure we'll be able to regain full use of his body”.
Many companies are working on thought control of computers, and other brain-machine interfaces are under development.
Facebook is funding a project to translate brain activity into words, via algorithms, to give voice to people who have been silenced due to neurodegenerative diseases.
Many scientists point out, however, that the brain is not as compartmentalized as one would like to think..
“Every brain has a unique structure, massively interconnected”, commented Dean Burnett, Cardiff University researcher, before the conference, expressing skepticism about the real advances of Neuralink.
The goal of the whimsical boss, with this presentation on YouTube, was above all to attract and recruit many engineers, surgeons, chemists, robotics specialists and others.
The start-up has only a hundred employees, but in hope 10.000 as fast as possible, to meet a mountain of challenges.
The computer chip must be protected against external interference (interference on the waves, signal strength) but also internal.
And of course, as for the autonomous cars of Tesla, late on ambitious boss announcements, the chip depends on the green lights of the regulators.
Elon Musk announced that Neuralink had just obtained approval from US health authorities for testing, without specifying a horizon for the first human settlements.
But nothing cools the ardor of the billionaire, who wants to colonize Mars and fears that artificial intelligence technologies (HE) do not turn humans into “domestic cats” computers.
He also mentioned the possibility of communicating raw thoughts, not limited by human languages – from “Consensual and conceptual non-linguistic telepathy”.
His team dreams, among others, to end extreme pain, to heal depressions and addictions or to unravel the mysteries of consciousness.
Referring to an episode of the series Black Mirror, which connects nightmarish scenarios where humans are overwhelmed by technologies, Elon Musk also claimed that it would be possible to store his memories in digital form.
“You can save your memories, and also potentially download them in another body or in a robot”, he said. “The future is gonna be weird”.
World news – FR – Elon Musk’s Brain Implant Slows Down – France 24