Tesla and Neuralink founder Elon Musk once again shocked the world with his live demonstration of a brain implant in a pig named Gertrude. On August 28, the multi-billionaire and 4th richest man in the world presented before media a pig that has been living with Neuralink’s brain implant for the last two months. ; The video showed the animal moving around a small pen while audio signals can be heard in the background. Musk explained to the media that the sounds or electronic pulses represented the neural spikes inside the pig’s brain. He said that the implant had all-day battery life, a monitoring unit that measures temperature and pressure, and at least 1,204 channels that can broadcast or receive signals. The chop also has a megabit capacity for wireless data rate. He described it as a “Fitbit” inside the brain.
The engineer-entrepreneur who also founded PayPal explained that eventually, he wants the Neuralink brain chip to be implanted in humans by robots. He said that this installation procedure using automation and robotics will someday be as normal as going to the local smartphone service center for a cracked screen repair.
The device is composed of at least 3,000 electrodes that could detect signals from 1,000 brain neurons. Each electrode transmits signals via threads that are thinner than a human hair.
Significance of Musk’s Brain Chip
While still in the early stages, this remarkable development is nothing short of revolutionary. While Musk’s Neuralink is not the first company to experiment in brain chip technology, it would seem that the only firm that continues to make progress and actually makes experimental findings open to the public. The first significance is that it is possible to put a working, transmitting chip inside a live organism. This is the first ever link between an invented object, that is the chip, to a living animal. While there have been implants in humans before such as a heart pacer or even a metal plate on a broken or cracked skull, this invention actually interplays with the human brain in real-time and is not a passive item. The second significance is that Musk’s unveiling of the implant signals another forward step towards perfecting a technology that could benefit human health and fitness.
Musk claims that his brain chip implant would help millions of people with neurological problems such as memory loss, depression, anxiety, and other brain-related conditions. ; If this invention reaches the final stage of development and proves to be effective, it could help people around the world who would be willing to have it inserted into them via robotic implantation. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are at least 264 million people with depression from different age groups and countries. ; The WHO also reported that one in 13 people around the world suffers from some form of anxiety. As for Musk, he believes that the implant also has the potential of curing motor disabilities or paralysis and even blindness. Ultimately, he wants the Neuralink implant to help people connect directly with computers so that interface could improve their performance, in the same way to artificial intelligence (AI) is able to harness information almost instantaneously. The current design shows that Musk’s team intends the brain-computer interface to work via Bluetooth, a low-power yet high-speed wireless technology often used to connect computers and smartphones. ;
When it is fully developed, Neuralink’s designers and technicians also aim to make it control not just computers but also smartphones. In fact, during the media briefing about the project, Musk was asked by a news reporter if they plan to make the chip a tool that could “summon” a Tesla car. ; The billionaire answered in the affirmative in the most casual and self-assured way. ;
At this stage of the project, scientists are tracking every signal that the experimental pig emits in its brain. The research team is sequencing how the pig’s brain works. There are trackers that monitor activity in every part of the pig’s brain and what part of it is triggered by certain acts such as eating. Once the researchers are able to construct a system of coding sequences, they can better understand how the neurons interact and control the rest of the pig’s physical actions.
Perhaps time will tell if Elon Musk’s venture into brain implant technology will work or not. For sure, it is another bold move for an entrepreneur who also pioneers the mass production of electric cars by Tesla and the outer space transportation venture, SpaceX which aims to bring human populations outside the Earth for possible colonization of other planets. Indeed, brain implant technology and its potential to cure human ailments and improve cognition exponentially are really worth thinking about.
Meta title: Gertrude: The World’s First Brain-implanted Pig
Meta description: Learn why Elon Musk is experimenting on a brain implant using a pig as a live test organism. Know about the potential of brain implant technology to help people with brain health conditions.