Elon Musk Says Helping 'Dire Brain Injuries' is Neuralink's First Priority

Billionaire technologist Elon Musk has said new details about his futuristic Neuralink project will be revealed to the world next month.

The Tesla and SpaceX boss said on Twitter that a Neuralink progress update is coming on August 28, providing fresh information about the company's efforts to connect the human brain to a computer interface via an implant placed inside the skull.

Musk has said the project will be used to treat neural conditions but could eventually enhance humans and facilitate a "symbiosis" with artificial intelligence (AI).

Since last year, little news has emerged from the team conducting the work, which aims to connect thin electrode threads directly into the brain for connectivity. In theory, Musk has said it could even let humans control computers with their minds.

But on Twitter today, responding to a user who asked who would be eligible for human trials, Musk said Neuralink's first priority will be "helping with dire brain injuries."

Most information about Neuralink came during a launch event in June last year, in which Musk said he hoped to have a human patient by the end of 2020.

During that event, Musk revealed the company was already conducting animal testing, claiming that a monkey "has been able to control a computer with its brain."

Despite the sci-fi ramifications of the statement, he tempered audience expectations by noting that development will take time, and still needs FDA-approval.

"This will be a slow process where we will gradually increase the issues that we solve until ultimately we can do a full brain interface, meaning that, this is going to sound pretty weird, but achieve a sort of symbiosis with artificial intelligence," he said.

"This is something I think is going to be really important at a civilization-level scale. I have said a lot about AI over the years but I think even in a benign AI scenario we will be left behind but I think with a high-bandwidth brain-machine interface we can actually go along for the ride and effectively have the option of merging with AI."

Musk has consistently warned about the danger of letting AI develop unchecked, saying back in 2014 it was "our biggest existential threat," The Guardian reported.

On Thursday, Musk suggested on Twitter that the Neuralink mission statement will be "if you can't beat em, join em," a statement he recently used on the Joe Rogan podcast in reference to how AI could rapidly advance, leaving humanity behind.

During that interview, released in May, Musk said the first version of the wireless chip will be implanted into the skull, used to treat a variety of disorders. "You basically take out a chunk of skull, put the Neuralink device in there," he said. "You would insert the electro threads into the brain and then you stitch it up. You wouldn't even know somebody has it. So then it can interface basically anywhere in your brain, so it could be something that helps cure, say, eyesight. It could, in principle, fix almost anything that is wrong with the brain."

This week, responding to a Twitter user who asked if Neuralink could be used to re-train parts of the brain linked to addiction or depression, Musk said "for sure."

Musk wrote: "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 & leptons. How did a very small piece of the universe start to think of itself as sentient?"

Elon Musk
Elon Musk, founder and chief engineer of SpaceX speaks at the 2020 Satellite Conference and Exhibition March 9, 2020 in Washington, DC. Musk answered a range of questions relating to SpaceX projects during his appearance at the conference. Win McNamee/Getty