The old dream of communicating with machines directly by thought is about to come true with Elon Musk’s Neuralink project. Is this a cause for celebration or panic? In any case, our contributor argues, governments need to get involved as soon as possible.
ice-president of the TACT public relations agency, Pascal Mailhot gravitated to the upper echelons as a political advisor in the office of the Premier of Quebec, successively for Lucien Bouchard, Bernard Landry and François Legault. He has also held a number of senior management positions in the healthcare network, most notably as spokesperson for Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital.
Giving mobility back to paraplegics, giving speech back to mute people, but also listening to music, sending a text message or consulting ChatGPT… by thought. All thanks to a chip implanted in the skull that links the brain to a computer. Right now, some of the world’s top scientists are working on the development of medical and technological feats.
For governments and states, the clock is ticking on this wave of innovation, which will bring profound changes to many areas of human activity.
A Fitbit in your head
Founded by Elon Musk, the man with boundless vision and ambition, Neuralink has been working since 2016 to develop a brain implant that would transmit data by thought via a Bluetooth or wifi connection. About the size of a small coin, the device works with electrodes implanted in the area of the brain that controls movement. These electrodes transmit neural signals to an interface linked to a computer system.
“We aim to design a fully implantable, cosmetically invisible brain-computer interface to allow you to control a computer or mobile device wherever you go,” reads a statement on the Neuralink website.
“It’s like a Fitbit in your skull,” illustrates the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX. But the world’s richest entrepreneur is keen to reassure us: the primary aim of this fusion of the human body and technology is to help people with disabilities or better treat diseases such as Parkinson’s.
For example, people with paraplegia or reduced mobility will be able to operate a digital device with their mind, or regain the ability to move through robotic applications.
Fascinating, as Charles Tisseyre would say!
Take patients suffering from locked-in syndrome. As illustrated in the film Le scaphandre et le papillon, starring Quebec actress Marie-Josée Croze (and based on an autobiography of the same name), they can only express themselves by moving their eyes to spell out words very slowly. Yet,” points out neuroscientist Eddie Chang in an article in Le Devoir, “the ability to express oneself is still present in their brains. We just need the technology to enable them to use it fluidly.”
The prosthesis developed by Elon Musk could make such a feat possible.