Mae Anderson in PhysOrg:
Tech billionaire Elon Musk is announcing a new venture called Neuralink focused on linking brains to computers. The company plans to develop brain implants that can treat neural disorders—and that may one day be powerful enough to put humanity on a more even footing with possible future superintelligent computers, according to a Wall Street Journal report citing unnamed sources. Musk, a founder of both the electric-car company Tesla Motors and the private space-exploration firm SpaceX, has become an outspoken doomsayer about the threat artificial intelligence might one day pose to the human race. Continued growth in AI cognitive capabilities, he and like-minded critics suggest, could lead to machines that can outthink and outmaneuver humans with whom they might have little in common. In a tweet Tuesday, Musk gave few details beyond confirming Neuralink's name and tersely noting the "existential risk" of failing to pursue direct brain-interface work.
STIMULATING THE BRAIN
Some neuroscientists and futurists, however, caution against making overly broad claims for neural interfaces. Hooking a brain up directly to electronics is itself not new. Doctors implant electrodes in brains to deliver stimulation for treating such conditions as Parkinson's disease, epilepsy and chronic pain. In experiments, implanted sensors have let paralyzed people use brain signals to operate computers and move robotic arms. Last year , researchers reported that a man regained some movement in his own hand with a brain implant. Musk's proposal goes beyond this. Although nothing is developed yet, the company wants to build on those existing medical treatments as well as one day work on surgeries that could improve cognitive functioning, according to the Journal article. Neuralink is not the only company working on artificial intelligence for the brain. Entrepreneur Bryan Johnson, who sold his previous payments startup Braintree to PayPal for $800 million, last year started Kernel, a company working on "advanced neural interfaces" to treat disease and extend cognition.