On April 8th this year Neuralink, the company founded by Elon Musk in 2016, released a video of 3 minutes and 27 seconds where you can see a monkey controlling a computer… with his mind. Amazing!
Pager, the nine-year-old macaque, is shown playing "MindPong," a kind of digital ping-pong. International reactions have not been lacking and the news has been presented in almost all the press media as something extraordinary, and it is without a doubt.
However, the idea of controlling digital devices with your mind is not really new. There is evidence of the possibility of controlling devices "telepathically" since the beginning of the 21st century, and it is based on the studies carried out by Eberhard Erich Fetz, an American neuroscientist who has dedicated his life to the development of brain implants aimed at connecting the brain with computers.
What is really new about the video presented is that the monkey controls the computer wirelessly, that is, no cable connects Pager's brain with the device.
To achieve this milestone, the researchers implanted 2,000 tiny cables into the macaque's motor cortex, in the region that coordinates the movement of the hands and arms. This allows an algorithm to "anticipate" Pager's intentions and transmit that signal to the computer, which executes an action on the screen before the monkey operates the lever that controls the game.
Another aspect that has attracted attention is that YouTube was chosen to share the results and not a scientific publication. I have nothing to say about this, only to remind you that Elon Musk recycles space rockets. Surely the article will come to light, but I doubt very much that the "paper" reaches the more than 4 million views that the video has on YouTube (disseminating the science before writing it seems to be another Neuralink strategy).
And what is the usefulness of this result?
First of all, it is already discussed about the impact that this type of interface could have for patients with paralysis (paraplegia). With such an implant, paraplegic patients could use their smartphones and their minds to be "faster than someone using their thumbs", Musk himself said. The impact of this type of technology could even make paraplegic patients walk again. There are so many other potential uses, so many more.
However, science is always skeptical and needs verifiable and replicable facts. It could still be a long way until we can order a pizza from the bathroom by accessing our cell phone in the living room.
Neuralink's main purpose is to implant wireless brain computer chips to help cure neurological conditions such as Alzheimer's, dementia, and spinal cord injuries, as well as merge humanity with artificial intelligence.
Enjoy the video