Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk claims that his new Neuralink brain-computer interface could cure depression and addiction.
The Independent reports that Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk claims that his new brain-computer chip startup company, Neuralink, will be able to cure mental issues such as depression and addiction. Musk founded Neuralink in 2016 after receiving $158 million in funding and claimed in a 2019 presentation that the company had developed a “sewing machine-link” device that could connect brains directly to computers. :
On August 28, Musk plans to reveal more information about Neuralink. One Twitter user named Pranay Pathole asked Musk what device capabilities could be expected, asking: “Can Neuralink be used to retrain the part of the brain which is responsible for causing addiction or depression? It’d be great if Neuralink can be used for something like addiction/ depression.”
Musk replied: “For sure. This is both great and terrifying. Everything we’ve ever sensed or thought has been electrical signals. The early universe was just a soup of quarks and leptons. How did a very small piece of the universe start to think of itself as sentient?”
In 2019, Musk claimed that Neuralink can “solve” schizophrenia and autism. During an appearance on the Artificial Intelligence podcast with Lex Fridman in November 2019, Musk was asked what he believes the most exciting effects of his company Neuralink’s technology will be. Musk replied: “So Neuralink, I think at first will solve a lot of brain-related diseases. So could be anything from like autism, schizophrenia, memory loss — like everyone experiences memory loss at certain points in age. Parents can’t remember their kids’ names and that kind of thing,”
Autism is not a disease that can be cured, it is a developmental disability. The UK National Autistic Society states: “Autism is not an illness or disease and cannot be ‘cured’. Often people feel being autistic is a fundamental aspect of their identity.” Similarly, schizophrenia is not a “disease” but is classified by the World Health Organization as a “severe mental disorder.”
Early versions of the Neuralink system have reportedly been tested on animals and human trials are expected to take place this year. Musk reportedly hopes that the device will help humans achieve symbiosis with artificial intelligence. During an appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, Musk stated: “You wouldn’t need to talk, you would be able to communicate very quickly and with far more precision.”
Many have been skeptical of Musk’s claims however, such as linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky who questioned whether it would be possible to communicate using only thoughts. “Developing methods by which if I’m thinking of moving my hand, you might be able to pick up the electrical signals that say he’s trying to move his hand, that’s conceivable,” Chomsky told the website Inverse in 2017.
He added: “Trying to find out what I’m thinking, let’s say, there’s no way of developing technology because we don’t understand how to proceed. The technology… is just nowhere near advanced enough.”