Neuralink or brain-machine interface – These might seem like complicated words, but let’s try to put it in the simplest possible words and try to understand what it means for us, the common people?
In the simplest possible words, ultra-high bandwidth brain-machine interface could be understood as making the machine (mobile, computers, etc.) and extension of your own body and senses.
When you interact with your mobile phone, you are constantly consuming large amounts of data, and sending it to your brain through your eyes, ears, and touch. This is a high bandwidth connection between your phone and your senses (and through your senses, your brain). But what if we could bypass the senses and download all that information directly to the parts of the brain that would eventually process it? That’ll mean ultra-high bandwidth connection between the machine (your phone) and your brain. In a way, the machine becomes a new ‘sense’ for you.
However, this is just one part of the equation. How about communicating with the machine? This is where we are facing severe limitations at the moment. Typing, speaking, and touching are low bandwidth operations, you can only communicate as much. While there have been some advancements with AI-based voice and gesture recognition (Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa et all), we still aren’t able to share as much information with the machines. In fact, even when we speak with others, using a limited set of words humanity has invented, a lot gets lost in translation. How about transferring or uploading all that information directly from the brain to your phone, or even to someone else’s brain without having to translate your thoughts into words? You would be able to communicate with the machines (phone/computer etc.) lot faster and share your actual intent. This would be the same as how you communicate with your hand, with your leg when you are running, writing, or typing. You don’t need to talk to your leg to move it while you are walking on rocky terrain, your brain just uses its ultra-high bandwidth interface with your leg to instruct it and also to get the information your foot senses in real-time.
We’ll not go into the technicalities of Neuralink and how it is supposed to work because you can find all that information on Neuralink’s website, but it’s basically a device with 1024 electrodes (latest version) that are lowered into your brain, through your skull. And these electrodes can then transfer information to and fro from the brain to your phone or another computing device, using Bluetooth. It can detect brain activity, predict your actions, and activate certain neurons or regions in your brain in different ways.
So, what does it mean for the world?
When ultra-high bandwidth brain-machine interface becomes a reality for humans, and in its advanced stages, following our some of the applications we can imagine at the moment (but the possibilities are really endless):
- Treat where brain-related diseases like anxiety, depression, memory loss, bipolar disorder, brain tumor, etc.
- Treat physical disabilities like loss of vision, hearing, paralysis, etc.
- Enable telepathy between people, people and machines, people, and devices such as TV, homes, etc. At a certain point, it could help inter-species communication too (just my imagination at the moment)
- Download and upload your memories – Your memories can be downloaded to a machine and maybe an AI-based device can process it and become your alter-ego!
- Change education forever – Anything you want to learn can directly be uploaded to your brain and you can use your mobile app to disable/enable different skills you need at different points in your life.
- Replace TV, mobile, and screens – Information can directly be passed into the brain, so you could basically watch movies without using a screen, directly into your brain.
- Replace reality – Experiences could be developed to transport you to an alternate reality, where everything seems and feel like the real world, but is basically just a projection into your mind through the brain-machine interface.
- Extend life: The brain-machine device can detect patterns and predict if your brain is switching off, and could possibly stimulate certain parts that are required for you to survive for that much longer.
Some of it might sound scary, but it’s just like the concept of the internet in the early 1990s. The Brain-machine interface is going to be a giant leap for humanity.
Image source: Neuralink