Elon Musk has revealed his Neuralink startup is close to announcing the first brain-machine interface to connect humans and computers.
The entrepreneur took to Twitter to tell followers the technology would be “coming soon” – though he failed to provide details.
Neuralink was set up in 2016 with the ambitious goal of developing hardware to enhance the human brain, however, little about how this will work has been made public.
The startup’s website, which is advertising vacancies for 11 different jobs, describes the futuristic technology as an “ultra-high bandwidth” connection between the human brain and computers.
Mr Musk has frequently claimed the rapid rise of artificial intelligence poses an existential risk to humanity. Such an interface, he says, is essential if humans are to compete with such technology in the future.
At a technology conference in 2016, Mr Musk said humans risked being treated like house pets by AI machines if a brain-computer interface was not built.
“I don’t love the idea of being a house cat, but what’s the solution?” he said. “I think one of the solutions that seems maybe the best is to add an AI layer.”
Speaking last year on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast, Mr Musk said Neuralink’s technology would allow humans to “effectively merge with AI”.
A paper published in Nature Nanotechnology in 2015 described a concept for this connection, explaining how a flexible circuit could be injected into a living brain.
“We’re trying to blur the distinction between electronic circuits and neural circuits,” said Harvard researcher Charles Lieber, who co-authored the study.
“We have to walk before we can run, but we think we can really revolutionize our ability to interface with the brain.”
Despite the technology’s potential to augment the human brain, experts have warned that brain-computer interfaces risk being hijacked by rogue artificial intelligence.
Such a scenario could lead to AI controlling the thoughts, decisions and emotions of a person using a brain-computer link.
“Technological developments mean that we are on a path to a world in which it will be possible to decode people’s mental processes and directly manipulate the brain mechanisms underlying their intentions, emotions and decision,” stated a Nature comment piece written by 27 neuroscientists, ethicists and machine intelligence engineers.
“The possible clinical and societal benefits of neurotechnologies are vast. To reap them, we must guide their development in a way that respects, protects and enables what is best in humanity.”