Elon Musk, the eccentric billionaire behind Tesla and SpaceX, outlined plans on Tuesday to connect human brains directly to computers, using a tiny chip.
Mr Musk describes the plan as “symbiosis with artificial intelligence”, and hopes the first prototype could be implanted in a human by the end of next year.
Talking at a presentation, he said the goal could take a while to achieve, adding that securing federal approval for a neural device is tricky.
Mr Musk said that testing on animals had begun and that “a monkey has been able to control the computer with his brain”.
The futurist entrepreneur founded Neuralink Corp in 2016 to create “ultra-high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect humans and computers”, adding in 2017 that its goal was to create brain interfaces to alleviate symptoms of chronic medical conditions.
He repeated his company’s goal of helping people in pain during his speech on Tuesday, saying: “We can solve that with a chip.”
He went on to say that it also sought to help you “preserve and enhance your own brain” and to “create a well-aligned future”.
However, it is presumed that Mr Musk characteristically wants something much bigger.
The entrepreneur frequently warns that the rapid advance of artificial intelligence (AI) threatens to leave humanity behind, calling it an “existential risk”.
He doubled down on his AI warning during his speech, and said that addressing the risk will mean trying to find a way for the brain to “merge” with AI, using the tiny wireless chips.
The chips will be implanted through a two millimetre incision to create what he called “some sort of symbiosis with artificial intelligence”.
Despite the largely aspirational goal to implanting the first chip in a human before the end of 2020, Mr Musk admitted that it will take much longer.
Addressing issues around accessibility, he said that the device will be so simple, that it would not need neuroscientists to implant or maintain it.
Talking about the cost, he said: “I think it’s safe to say you could repay the loan with superhuman intelligence.
“I think it’s a safe bet.”
Speaking on Joe Rogan’s podcast in November, Mr Musk described the plan as “an AI extension of yourself”, adding: “If you can’t beat it, join it.”