Whenever Elon Musk is mentioned in the media, my mind wanders to Space X, Tesla, underground tunnels for electric cars and the arrival of his newborn son, X Æ A-12 (now X Æ A-Xii). The last thing that comes to mind is pigs.
On Friday, the engineer, technology entrepreneur and philanthropist debuted his latest invention — a new kind of implantable chip for the human brain — in a pig named Gertrude.
During the live-streamed event, Musk demonstrated how Neuralink brain implants can be surgically added to live subjects, in this case a pig, without any detriment to their health. As Gertrude, who had the implant inserted two months prior, moved around her pen, Neuralink used the implant to read the pig's neural activity while she performed certain actions such as smelling, eating and walking. Musk explained whenever Gertrude touched something with her snout, it sent out neural spikes that were detected by the more than 1,000 electrodes in the implant.
Another pig named Dorothy was also on site. She previously had an implant, but it had been removed. Musk showed the pig was still thriving after the procedure.
Describing the technology as a "Fitbit in your skull with tiny wires," Musk says his company is now preparing to implant a Neuralink device in the first human subject "soon," pending further safety testing and regulatory approvals. Neuralink plans to roll out the technology first for paraplegic patients, but in typical "Musk-style," the industrial designer and now fifth-richest person in the world, raised the possibility that the implants could one day convert memories into computer code and then be downloaded into a new robot body.
During the event, Musk said, "the future is going to be weird." Indeed.
As my colleague Kevin Schulz commented, "interesting and scary all at the same time." I couldn't agree more.