Neuralink

Neuralink Corporation is a neurotechnology company developing implantable brain–machine interfaces (BMIs) and founded by Elon Musk and others. The company's headquarters is in the Pioneer Building in San Francisco sharing offices with OpenAI.[6] Neuralink was launched in 2016 and was first publicly reported in March 2017.[1][2]

Neuralink Corporation
TypePrivate
IndustryBrain-computer interface
Neuroprosthetics
FoundedJuly 2016; 5 years ago (2016-07)[1]
FoundersElon Musk and 8 partners[2][3]
HeadquartersPioneer Building, San Francisco, California, U.S. (as of 2020)[4]
Key people
  • Elon Musk (CEO)
OwnerElon Musk
Number of employees
Around 100[5] (08/2020)
Websiteneuralink.com

Coordinates: 37°45′44″N 122°24′53″W / 37.7623°N 122.4148°W / 37.7623; -122.4148

Since its founding, the company has hired several high-profile neuroscientists from various universities.[7] By July 2019, it had received $158 million in funding (of which $100 million was from Musk) and was employing a staff of 90 employees.[8] At that time, Neuralink announced that it was working on a "sewing machine-like" device capable of implanting very thin (4 to 6 μm in width[9]) threads into the brain, and demonstrated a system that read information from a lab rat via 1,500 electrodes. They had anticipated starting experiments with humans in 2020;[8] but have since moved that projection to 2021.[10]

Several neuroscientists and publications, including the MIT Technology Review, have criticized some claims made by Musk in relation to the technology.[11][12]

OverviewEdit

 
The Pioneer Building in San Francisco, housing the offices of Neuralink and OpenAI

Neuralink was founded in 2016 by Elon Musk, Max Hodak, Ben Rapoport, Dongjin Seo, Paul Merolla, Philip Sabes, Tim Gardner, Tim Hanson and Vanessa Tolosa, a group of experts in areas such as neuroscience, biochemistry and robotics.[6] The trademark "Neuralink" was purchased from its previous owners in January 2017.[13]

In April 2017, Neuralink announced that it was aiming to make devices to treat serious brain diseases in the short-term, with the eventual goal of human enhancement, sometimes called transhumanism.[14][6][15] Musk had said his interest in the idea partly stemmed from the science fiction concept of "neural lace" in the fictional universe in The Culture, a series of 10 novels by Iain M. Banks.[15][16]

Musk defined the neural lace as a "digital layer above the cortex" that would not necessarily imply extensive surgical insertion but ideally an implant through a vein or artery.[17] Musk explained that the long-term goal is to achieve "symbiosis with artificial intelligence",[18] which he perceives as an existential threat to humanity if it goes unchecked.[18][19]

As of 2020, Neuralink is headquartered in San Francisco's Mission District, sharing the Pioneer building with OpenAI, another company co-founded by Musk.[20][4] Jared Birchall, the head of Musk's family office, was listed as CEO, CFO and president of Neuralink in 2018.[21][20] As of September 2018, Musk was the majority owner of Neuralink but did not hold an executive position.[22]

By August 2020, only three of the eight founding scientists remained at the company, according to an article by Stat News which reported that Neuralink had seen "years of internal conflict in which rushed timelines have clashed with the slow and incremental pace of science."[23]

In April 2021, Neuralink demonstrated a monkey playing the game "Pong" using the Neuralink implant.[24] While similar technology has existed since 2002, when a research group first demonstrated a monkey moving a computer cursor with neural signals, scientists acknowledged the engineering progress in making the implant wireless and increasing the number of implanted electrodes.[25][26][27]

In May 2021, co-founder and president Max Hodak announced that he no longer works with the company.[28]

TechnologyEdit

In 2018, Gizmodo reported that Neuralink "remained highly secretive about its work", although public records showed that it had sought to open an animal testing facility in San Francisco; it subsequently started to carry out research at the University of California, Davis.[20] In 2019, during a live presentation at the California Academy of Sciences, the Neuralink team revealed to the public the technology of the first prototype they had been working on. It is a system that involves ultra-thin probes that will be inserted into the brain, a neurosurgical robot that will perform the operations and a high-density electronic system capable of processing information from neurons. It is based on technology developed at UCSF and UC Berkeley.[29]

ProbesEdit

The probes, composed mostly of polyimide, a biocompatible material, with a thin gold or platinum conductor, are inserted into the brain through an automated process performed by a surgical robot. Each probe consists of an area of wires that contains electrodes capable of locating electrical signals in the brain, and a sensory area where the wire interacts with an electronic system that allows amplification and acquisition of the brain signal. Each probe contains 48 or 96 wires, each of which contains 32 independent electrodes, making a system of up to 3072 electrodes per formation.[9][30]

RobotEdit

Neuralink says they have developed a robot capable of rapidly inserting many flexible probes into the brain, which may avoid the problems of tissue damage and longevity associated with larger and more rigid probes.[31][32][33] This robot has an insertion head with a 40 μm diameter needle made of tungsten-rhenium designed to attach to the insertion loops, made to transport and insert individual probes, and to penetrate the meninges and tissue cerebral. The robot is capable of inserting up to six wires (192 electrodes) per minute.[31]

ElectronicsEdit

 
Elon Musk discussing the Neuralink

Neuralink has developed an Application-Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) to create a 1,536-channel recording system. This system consists of 256 amplifiers capable of being individually programmed ("analog pixels"), analog-to-digital converters within the chip ("ADCs") and a peripheral circuit control to serialize the digitized information obtained.[31] It aims to convert information obtained from neurons into an understandable binary code in order to achieve greater understanding of brain function and the ability to stimulate these neurons back. Currently, electrodes are still too big to record the firing of individual neurons, so they can record only the firing of a group of neurons; Neuralink representatives believe this issue might get mitigated algorithmically, but it's computationally expensive and does not produce exact results.[34]

In July 2020, according to Musk, Neuralink obtained a FDA breakthrough device designation which allows limited human testing under the FDA guidelines for medical devices.[35][36]

ReceptionEdit

Several neurology scientists have commented on the intention of Musk and members of Neuralink to build a brain-computer interface.[37] The response from the scientific community has been mixed.

At a live demonstration in August 2020, Musk described one of their early devices as "a Fitbit in your skull" which could soon cure paralysis, deafness, blindness, and other disabilities. Many neuroscientists and publications criticized these claims.[11][12][38] For example, MIT Technology Review described them as "highly speculative" and "neuroscience theater".[11]

Mary Lou Jepsen, founder of Openwater, a company that also works in the area of brain-computer interfaces, has expressed concern about the rejection reactions that probes can cause.[39] Professor Andrew Jackson, professor of neural interfaces at Newcastle University, commented that he didn't "think there was anything revolutionary in [Neuralink's pig implant] presentation" but that the wireless features were "nice".[40] Thiago Arzua of the Medical College of Wisconsin argued Neuralink has "showed little more than a flashy new design for a BMI with more electrodes".

Neuralink tests their devices by surgically implanting them in the brains of live monkeys, pigs and other animals.[41] These methods have been criticized by groups such as PETA.[42]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b Winkler, Rolfe (March 27, 2017). "Elon Musk Launches Neuralink to Connect Brains With Computers". Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on May 5, 2017. Retrieved May 4, 2017.
  2. ^ a b Statt, Nick (March 27, 2017). "Elon Musk launches Neuralink, a venture to merge the human brain with AI". The Verge. Archived from the original on February 6, 2018. Retrieved September 6, 2017.
  3. ^ Strickland, Eliza (April 12, 2017). "5 Neuroscience Experts Weigh in on Elon Musk's Mysterious "Neural Lace" Company". IEEE Spectrum. Retrieved September 8, 2021.
  4. ^ a b Hao, Karen (February 17, 2020). "The messy, secretive reality behind OpenAI's bid to save the world". MIT Technology Review. Retrieved March 9, 2020.
  5. ^ "Neuralink Progress Update, Summer 2020". Youtube. Neuralink. Retrieved August 29, 2020.
  6. ^ a b c Masunaga, Samantha (April 21, 2017). "A quick guide to Elon Musk's new brain-implant company, Neuralink". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on May 5, 2017. Retrieved May 4, 2017.
  7. ^ "Elon Musk's Brain Tech Startup Is Raising More Cash". May 11, 2019. Archived from the original on May 11, 2019. Retrieved May 12, 2019. The company has hired away several high-profile neuroscientists
  8. ^ a b Markoff, John (July 16, 2019). "Elon Musk's Company Takes Baby Steps to Wiring Brains to the Internet". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on July 17, 2019. Retrieved July 17, 2019.
  9. ^ a b Elon Musk unveils Neuralink’s plans for brain-reading ‘threads’ and a robot to insert them. Archived July 17, 2019, at the Wayback Machine Elizabeth Lopatto, The Verge. 16 July 2019.
  10. ^ Español, Entrepreneur en (February 4, 2021). "Neuralink Could Begin Testing Human Brain Implants This Year, Says Elon Musk". Entrepreneur. Retrieved February 6, 2021.
  11. ^ a b c Regalado, Antonio (August 30, 2020). "Elon Musk's Neuralink is neuroscience theater". MIT Technology Review. Retrieved September 3, 2020.
  12. ^ a b Cellan-Jones, Rory (September 1, 2020). "Is Elon Musk over-hyping his brain-hacking Neuralink tech?". BBC News. Archived from the original on September 12, 2020. Retrieved September 14, 2020.
  13. ^ Meet the Guys Who Sold "Neuralink" to Elon Musk without Even Realizing It, April 4, 2017, MIT Technology Review
  14. ^ Urban, Tim (April 20, 2017). "Neuralink and the Brain's Magical Future". Wait But Why. Archived from the original on May 4, 2017. Retrieved May 4, 2017.
  15. ^ a b Newitz, Annalee (March 27, 2017). "Elon Musk is setting up a company that will link brains and computers". Ars Technica. Archived from the original on May 19, 2017. Retrieved May 4, 2017.
  16. ^ Cross, Tim (March 31, 2017). "The novelist who inspired Elon Musk". 1843 Magazine. Archived from the original on May 21, 2017. Retrieved May 4, 2017.
  17. ^ Elon Musk thinks we will have to use AI this way to avoid a catastrophic future Archived February 13, 2019, at the Wayback Machine. Robert Ferris, CNBC News. 31 January 2017.
  18. ^ a b Elon Musk believes AI could turn humans into an endangered species like the mountain gorilla Archived December 4, 2018, at the Wayback Machine. Isobel Asher Hamilton, Business Insider. 26 November 2018.
  19. ^ Everything you need to know about Neuralink: Elon Musk’s brainy new venture Archived December 6, 2018, at the Wayback Machine. Tyler Lacoma, Digital Trends. 7 November 2017.
  20. ^ a b c Conger, Kate. "Elon Musk's Neuralink Sought to Open an Animal Testing Facility in San Francisco". Gizmodo. Archived from the original on September 24, 2018. Retrieved October 11, 2018.
  21. ^ Oremus, April Glaser, Aaron Mak, Will (August 17, 2018). "Why Elon Musk's Companies Aren't Melting Down, Even If He Is". Slate Magazine. Archived from the original on July 20, 2019. Retrieved July 20, 2019.
  22. ^ No-Action Letter: Neuralink Corp Archived July 20, 2019, at the Wayback Machine. U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), October 16, 2018
  23. ^ "Ahead of Neuralink event, ex-employees detail research timeline clashes". STAT. August 25, 2020. Retrieved September 6, 2020.
  24. ^ Jack Guy. "Elon Musk's Neuralink claims monkeys can play Pong using just their minds". CNN. Retrieved April 9, 2021.
  25. ^ "Neuralink's Monkey Experiment Raises Questions From Scientists and Tech Ethicist". Observer. April 13, 2021. Retrieved April 14, 2021.
  26. ^ Andrew Paul. "Elon Musk really wants to impress you with his Neuralink monkey". Input. Retrieved April 14, 2021.
  27. ^ "Private money will really push the field forward". The Psychologist. April 14, 2021. Archived from the original on April 19, 2021.
  28. ^ Kolodny, Lora (May 2, 2021). "Neuralink co-founder Max Hodak leaves Elon Musk's brain implant company". CNBC. Retrieved May 7, 2021.
  29. ^ US application 20180296243, Timothy L. Hanson, Michel M. Maharbiz, Philip N. Sabes, "Methods, Compositions, and Systems for Device Implantation." 
  30. ^ Elon Musk’s Neuralink Aims to Merge Human Brain With A.I. Archived July 29, 2019, at the Wayback Machine Dinker, TechBrackets. 18 July 2019.
  31. ^ a b c Musk, Elon; Neuralink (July 18, 2019). "An integrated brain-machine interface platform with thousands of channels". bioRxiv: 703801. doi:10.1101/703801. PMID 31642810. S2CID 201192799.
  32. ^ Biran, Roy; Martin, David C.; Tresco, Patrick A. (September 1, 2005). "Neuronal cell loss accompanies the brain tissue response to chronically implanted silicon microelectrode arrays". Experimental Neurology. 195 (1): 115–126. doi:10.1016/j.expneurol.2005.04.020. ISSN 0014-4886. PMID 16045910. S2CID 14077903.
  33. ^ Hanson, Timothy L.; Diaz-Botia, Camilo A.; Kharazia, Viktor; Maharbiz, Michel M.; Sabes, Philip N. (March 14, 2019). "The "sewing machine" for minimally invasive neural recording". bioRxiv: 578542. doi:10.1101/578542. S2CID 92316726.
  34. ^ "Neuralink Paper Review - Numenta Research Meeting". Numenta, Inc. Archived from the original on July 24, 2019. Retrieved July 27, 2019 – via YouTube.
  35. ^ Metz, Rachel (August 28, 2020). "Elon Musk shows off a working brain implant — in pigs". CNN. Retrieved October 4, 2020.
  36. ^ Neuralink Progress Update, Summer 2020, Neuralink, 28 August 2020, accessed 4 October 2020.
  37. ^ "Full Page Reload". IEEE Spectrum: Technology, Engineering, and Science News. Retrieved October 26, 2019.
  38. ^ Rogers, Adam (September 4, 2020). "Neuralink Is Impressive Tech, Wrapped in Musk Hype". Wired. Archived from the original on September 7, 2020. Retrieved September 14, 2020.
  39. ^ "https://twitter.com/mljmljmlj/status/1154790847231082497". Twitter. Retrieved July 15, 2021. External link in |title= (help)
  40. ^ "Is Elon Musk over-hyping his brain-hacking Neuralink tech?". BBC News. September 1, 2020. Retrieved July 15, 2021.
  41. ^ Shead, Sam (February 1, 2021). "Elon Musk says his start-up Neuralink has wired up a monkey to play video games using its mind". CNBC. Retrieved February 1, 2021.
  42. ^ Linder, Courtney (September 9, 2020). "Why Is Elon Musk Testing His Brain Implant on Pigs?". Popular Mechanics. Retrieved January 26, 2021.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit