Brain implants that artificially convert thoughts into action
We are all familiar with devices that convert verbal words into actions. I can tell Alexa in my laptop what to do. Or Siri in my iPhone. Or the microphone in my Xfinity TV Voice Remote. All of this came about in the last 10 years.
But converting mental thoughts into actions still seems like a dream. But Elon Musk, of Tesla fame, said recently another of his companies, Neuralink, has implanted wires into a human brain which connect to a device that decodes the thoughts from the brain. If a thought is recognized to move a paralyzed leg, then another instrument connected to a leg would command leg muscles to move.
Elon Musk is going to call his new product Telepathy, although it’s far from ready yet. The concept of mental telepathy, which some people believe in, has been around for a long time. John Steinbeck in his book Travels with Charley — a French Poodle – related a story about mental telepathy. He said that at some point in the evening, while sitting in his camper truck, without pause in what he was doing, and with no other visible or recognizable sign, he would just think, “It’s time to let the dog out.” The dog would come running to the door, waiting to be let out. Steinback said he was convinced this was mental telepathy between a man and his dog.
In May of 2023, a story featured Gert-Jan Oskam who was paralyzed in a cycling accident in 2011. He has learned to walk again by using his thoughts that are collected by a brain implant and then sent to a computer. The computer translates his thoughts into instructions for his leg muscles to walk.
In 2021, a neurosurgeon, Professor Jocelyne Bloch of Lausanne University, drilled two 5 cm wide holes on each side of the patient’s skull, above regions that control bodily motion, and inserted small discs that could capture and send brain signals via wireless to a computer. The computer used an algorithm (a very complicated equation) to decode the brain signals and convert them into instructions for leg muscles. The instructions were conveyed to a second implant — a sensor around the spinal column that connected to nerves that move leg and foot muscles.
Mr Oskam was able to walk again by using only his thoughts. Initially he felt like a toddler learning to walk for the first time. But now is able to even walk up a flight of stairs.
Another man, Michel Roccati, using the same technology, was able to walk again even though his spine was completely severed.
A company has been set up to commercialize the technology, and miniaturize it.
Elon Musk and Neuralink.
Neuralink is the company that Elon Musk set up to study Artificial Intelligence or AI. Musk’s partner, Shivon Zilis, is an executive at Neuralink. She is the mother of his twin children, now about 20 months.
Musk reported at end of January 2024, his company had successfully implanted a brain chip. This puts the company up at a rarified level, because there are only a few other companies who have inserted implants into human brains.
According to BBC.com, a robot was used to insert 64 threads, each flexible and thinner than a human hair, to a part of the brain the company says controls “movement intention”. This implant will monitor and send the brain signals to an app that decodes how the subject intends to move, and presumably this is connected to muscle sensors than enable movement in the body. There exist a variety of neurological disorders that could be helped by this technology.
Another application is people without hands or arms to be able to mentally control and direct their phones or computers – just by thinking.
Musk runs 6 companies: Tesla, SpaceX/Starlink, Twitter/X, Boring Co., Neuralink, and xAI.
Musk wants to create an AI system that could “reason” and “think” and pursue “truth”. Eventually it would become a “maximum truth-seeking AI.” And it would “care about understanding the universe.” Wait a moment — this sounds like building an AI system that resembles God.
The Gray Nomad – Starry discoveries like artificial mental telepathy are helping paralyzed people to walk.
Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
[Genesis chapter 11]