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.
You don't need an infinite number of monkeys to type out the complete works of William Shakespeare. What you need, according to a team of researchers from Stanford University, is one monkey equipped with a brain implant that allows it to interface with a computer. In a new experiment described in the journal IEEE, researchers were able to use a brain-computer interface (BCI) to enable thought-controlled typing at a rate of up to 12 words a minute -- the highest brain-based typing rate ever achieved. In the experiment conducted on two rhesus macaques, the animals were able to transcribe passages from Hamlet and the New York Times. "Our results demonstrate that this interface may have great promise for use in people.
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.
Brain computer interfaces might prevent superintelligent AI from ending the world. Elon Musk is a busy guy. Given Musk's ambitiousness, it's not totally surprising that he is also launching a company that will look into ways to link human brains to computers. Musk reportedly plans to spend 3-5% of his work time on Neuralink, which will develop technology to integrate brains and computers as a way to fix medical problems and eventually supercharge human cognition. Existing brain-computer interfaces, which are relatively simple compared to Musks's goals, can connect to a few hundred brain cells at a time.