Neuralink wires monkeys to play video games with their minds


Jeff Miller / University of Wisconsin-Madison

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in an interview late Sunday that a monkey was wired to play video games with its mind by a company he founded called Neuralink.

Neuralink stuck a computer chip in the monkey’s skull and used “tiny wires” to connect it to its brain, Musk said.

“It’s not an unhappy monkey,” he said during a conversation about Clubhouse, a new social media app that is becoming increasingly popular that allows people to have informal voice chats while others listen. “You can’t even see where the nerve implant was placed, other than that it has a light and dark mohawk.”

The billionaire, who also talked about space travel, colonies on Mars, crypto, artificial intelligence and Covid-19 vaccines, said Neuralink was trying to find out if it could use its chips to get monkeys to “mind pong” each other play.

“That would be pretty cool,” said Musk, who is Neuralink’s CEO alongside SpaceX and Tesla.

The approximately 100-strong team at Neuralink, headquartered in San Francisco, is trying to develop an implementable computer-brain interface. Musk describes it as a Fitbit in your skull with tiny wires going into your brain.

He said the goal of Neuralink is to increase the speed at which information can flow from the human brain to a machine.

Keeping up with the AI

The AI ​​is only getting smarter, and Neuralink’s technology could one day allow people to “ride along,” according to Musk.

To illustrate the pace of advancement in AI, the innovator – who believes machine intelligence will ultimately outperform human intelligence – pointed to breakthroughs in research laboratories like OpenAI, which he co-founded, and DeepMind, a London AI laboratory, which was acquired by Google in 2014. DeepMind “basically has no more games to win,” said Musk, who was an early investor in the company.

According to Musk, people are already “cyborgs” because they have a tertiary “digital layer” thanks to phones, computers and applications.

“With a direct neural interface, we can improve the bandwidth between your cortex and your digital tertiary layer by many orders of magnitude,” he said. “I would probably say at least 1,000 or maybe 10,000 or more.”

The cortex is a part of the brain that plays a key role in relation to memory, attention, perceptual awareness, thinking, language, and awareness. The digital plane he is referring to can be anything from a person’s iPhone to their Twitter account.

Long-term, Musk claims that Neuralink could enable humans to use telepathy to send concepts to one another and, after death, exist in a “saved state” that could then be put into a robot or other human. He admitted that he was into science fiction.

In the near future, Musk plans to implant Neuralink chips in quadriplegics with brain or spinal injuries so that they can “control a computer mouse, phone, or really any device just by thinking.”

Musk said Neuralink will “likely” post some videos showing the company’s progress over the next month or so.

In August, Neuralink ran a live demo of its technology on three pigs. An audience was shown real-time neural signals from one of the pigs Musk named Gertrude.

Musk used the presentation on Clubhouse, which was streamed live on YouTube when capacity was reached, to entice engineers to apply for a position at Neuralink.

“If someone who listens is good at designing Fitbit, Apple Watches, phones, and computers of all kinds, then they are a great fit for Neuralink,” he said.