There are times when you can actually believe that you have been asleep for a few years. You wake up, switch on your computer and read something that clearly comes from the distant future. The item, in this case, was a headline that read: "Brain machine interface hardware revenues to reach $19 billion by 2027". Surely some time warp must have catapulted us at least five years into the future. As bleary, early morning images of people interfacing with their computers (such an old fashioned term), devices, houses, locks, offices and the environment generally began to clear, slightly saner images took their place.
All of the brain-machine interface work to date has really focused on clinical populations: people who have nerve pathologies, things like ALS or any number of muscular dystrophies. Our big idea was, well, wait a second, most of the work that's been done to date has been addressed to people who lack functioning motor systems. So what would happen if you actually have a functioning motor system? How would you approach the brain-machine interface problem then? That was the kind of founding animus of the company: Rather than trying to work around the motor neuron system, let's actually work with it.
Regina Dugan said, as the same words appeared on the towering screen behind her, one digital character at a time, a cursor leading the way. "It sounds impossible," she continued, taking another measured step across the stage. "But it's closer than you may realize." Dugan once oversaw Darpa, the visionary research arm of the US Department of Defense. Now, after a stint at Google, she oversees a blue-sky lab at Facebook called Building 8. Her keynote speech last week at the company's annual developer conference marked her public debut as a Facebooker.
Elon Musk thinks that accessing the brain directly will enable us to interact faster with AI. He is making a fundamental error. Speaking about AI at the Code Conference 2016, he said: "Constrained by input output", "If we can create a high-bandwidth neural interface with your digital self", "Access directly to cortex", "How to establish a high bandwidth neural interface" Unfortunately Elon Musk does not realise that the bottleneck is the brain's ability to integrate new information. Our sensors already have greater input capacity than our biology based brains can process, so unless we replace the CPU (the brain), we will never be superhumans.