Commentary

Here's the Creepy Thing a Monkey Can Do After Getting One of Elon Musk's Microchips Embedded in Its Brain

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Anyone born before the turn of the century has witnessed the world’s most recent revolution — a technological one, embedded in a virtual reality, but no less real.

Many of us watched the rise and fall of dial-up internet, the replacement of the floppy disk and CD-ROM with digital downloads, and we saw our archaic Nokia and flip phones replaced by smart devices.

With all of these developments in a brief 25 years, we can only wonder what happens next, right?

Elon Musk‘s Neuralink Corp. released a three-minute video on April 8, revealing a 9-year-old macaque monkey playing video games via two of the company’s implantable brain chips, possibly answering that question with: brain-computer interfaces.

A Neuralink voice-over explained that the company “records from more than 2000 electrodes implanted in the regions of the monkey’s motor cortex that coordinate hand and arm movements,” Reuters reported.

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“Using these data, we calibrate the decoder by mathematically modelling the relationship between patterns of neural activity and the different joystick movements they produce.

“After only a few minutes of calibration, we can use the output from the decoder to move the cursor instead of the joystick,” the voice-over added.

Though the monkey moves the scientist-unplugged joystick with his hand by “habit,” he interacts with the game entirely by method of “decoded neural activity.”

As the monkey thinks about moving his hand, the video game corresponds, meaning he controls what happens with his brain.

Are brain chips the next technological breakthrough?

It works by one unique — and atypical — method Neuralink seeks to develop further.

“The reason Neuralink works is because it’s recording and decoding electrical signals from the brain,” the voice-over said.

This depicts a potential future for brains and computers to work not independently but collaboratively. Still, there is much more this technology will be applied to.

At first it sounds far-fetched to believe this technology someday could become implantable in humans.

But not really.

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The idea has been recorded since 1973, when brain-computer interface (BCI) research began at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), to develop insight into potential brain-computer communication.

Musk’s company now seeks to turn these concepts into reality 48 years later, and this is one of the creepiest inventions of our lifetimes.

While we can be skeptical of where widespread BCIs might lead — mind control, for instance — many assert the positive qualities it could possess.

Neuralink touts its aim to implant electrodes into human brains to  potentially cure debilitating neurological conditions that are chronic, including Alzheimer’s, dementia and spinal cord injures, Reuters reported.

Perhaps these BCIs also could be used to cure blindness by feeding signals directly into the brain’s visual cortex, or they could even go further.

We’ve yet to discover their full capacity.

Still, the concept of fusing an organic brain with artificial intelligence could present an opening for Pandora’s Box.

One of the unique aspects of being human is that we possess  independent thoughts, ideas and inhibitions.

What if all of these are someday replaced by an implantable computer chip that revokes our autonomy and, instead, thinks for us?

Is it ambitious to think that our brains could become the next avenue for the World Wide Web and we could download information as needed?

That would take away from the experience of being human.

Are we playing into Hollywood’s science fiction films? Creating our own Skynet? Our own potential downfall?

Maybe science fiction wasn’t so much fiction after all.

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Taylor Penley is a government relations intern and student studying English, rhetoric and global studies. She plans to graduate in May 2021 and begin a master of arts program in political science this fall.
Taylor Penley is a government relations intern and student studying English, rhetoric and global studies. She plans to graduate in May 2021 and begin a master of arts program in political science this fall.




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