Well that had to be the oddest job-recruitment pitch ever streamed to YouTube.
Late Friday afternoon, Elon Musk took the stage to update the world on Neuralink — his effort to link the human brain to computers — and to implore engineers, animal care professionals, and robotics experts to join him. At the heart of the demo was a pig by the name of Gertrude, which he claimed has been linked up to some form of Neuralink for the past two months.
Repeatedly emphasizing that the goal of the presentation was recruitment, Musk described the Neuralink device as “a Fitbit in your skull, with tiny wires.” Specifically, those tiny wires are one-twentieth the thickness of a hair, and 43 millimeters long. But it’s possible to make them even longer to reach regions deeper in the brain, a Neuralink employee said.
Musk predicted that Neuralinks, “about the size of a large coin,” would one day be implanted in humans in under an hour courtesy of a custom robot that is currently under development. He’s talked about this before.
“I could have a Neuralink right now and you wouldn’t know,” Musk joked to the crowd. “Maybe I do.”
The idea, as Musk framed it, is to one day be able to “solve” a host of human ailments — memory loss, hearing loss, blindness, paralysis, depression, insomnia, extreme pain, seizures, anxiety, addiction, strokes, and brain damage — with the relatively tiny device.
“These can all be solved with an implantable Neuralink,” Musk claimed.
The question, of course, is does any of this work? It’s clearly early stages, but Musk demonstrated that the Neuralink in Gertrude “connects to neurons that are in her snout,” and showed a gathered crowd that when Gertrude sniffed and ate food, the computer received signals. The threads connecting the device to her brain are flexible, Musk said, so when she head-butts other pigs it can jostle around and still work.
So that’s something, at least. It’s also a step up from his USB-rat.
As Musk envisions it, in the future the Neuralink will connect to your phone via Bluetooth, and will charge wirelessly overnight.
In the Q&A segment that followed the presentation, a Neuralink employee stressed that privacy and security are on everyone’s mind. All neural data would be encrypted, he stressed, and the company is already working with penetration testers to gird the device against hackers.
Musk insisted that the team is “working closely with the FDA,” and that safety is their top priority. Oh yeah, and did he mention they’re hiring?
“If you’ve, like, shipped a smartwatch or a phone, or any kind of complex electronics or complex device, or advanced medical devices, we’d love for you to contact us and consider working here,” Musk said toward the end of his presentation. “So, a very important point to emphasize is that you do not need to have prior experience on brains.”
The future is a weird place.