American entrepreneur Elon Musk is one of the pioneers in the world of technology and among his several ventures is Neuralink, a start-up that is developing implantable brain-machine interfaces to connect the human brain to computers. The 49-year-old billionaire recently shared a video on Twitter showcasing how this new technology is going to look like in the near future.
On Friday, Elon shared a video posted by Neuralink that showed a monkey playing a video game with just a brain chip implanted in it. The forty-second clip uploaded on YouTube by Neurolink showed a nine-year-old macaque Pager, who had a Neuralink placed in each side of his brain, six weeks ago. Pager has learnt to interact with the computer in exchange for a banana smoothie which is delivered through a straw. Interacting with Neuralink is quite easy as the video explains, one just has to pair it with their smartphone.
As Pager sucks on the straw he also plays the video game with the help of neuralink. The video mentions that the brain chip record from 2000 electrodes implanted in the regions of Pager’s motor cortex that coordinate hand and arm movement. Neurons in this region modulate their activity with intended hand movement. By recording from many neurons and feeding their activity into a decoder algorithm the Neuralink team is able to predict Page’s intended hand movements in real time.
As Pager uses the joystick to play the video game, the scientists record the neural activity and calibrate the decoder. The firing rates from thousands of neurons in Pager’s brain are wirelessly streamed to a computer. And that is how Pager’s intended actions are seen on the screen. The joystick is not connected to the system, and even though it may look that Pager is playing with the hardware it is actually the brain chip that is actually playing the game.
Elon’s tweet did attract mixed reactions, as some users commented that the next step of technological evolution would be the game controlling the human. While another user posted a gif from the Planet of the Apes that said, the human way is violence and death.
Soon the game will be playing the monkey.— Stuart Marongwe (@marongwe_stuart) April 9, 2021
The next chapter to slave humanity is here.— Nova (@freedomnova44) April 9, 2021
Is Earth set to turn into a ‘Planet of the Apes?’ Or is this a more Black Mirror-like situation? Only time can tell.