Elon Musk, the American tech billionaire, is renowned for his bold innovation and disruptive technologies. Not only is he the founder and CEO of electric car company Tesla and space exploration technology company SpaceX, but he is also a co-founder of Neuralink—a company dedicated to achieving direct communication between the human brain and computers. Established in 2017, Neuralink aims to develop Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) technology by implanting tiny microchips into the human brain to read and decode neural signals, transforming them into commands for external devices. This technology holds promise for treating neurological conditions such as memory decline, spinal cord injuries, paralysis, visual impairments, and even enabling symbiosis between humans and artificial intelligence (AI).

Neuralink’s technology consists of two main components: the Link implant and the Telepathy application. The Link, approximately the size of five coins, is fully implantable, cosmetically invisible, and wirelessly rechargeable. It contains over 3000 electrodes connected to ultra-thin wires finer than hair, allowing monitoring of the activity of 1000 neurons. The Link can be implanted in brain regions responsible for voluntary movement, such as the motor cortex or prefrontal cortex. Telepathy, on the other hand, is a smartphone application that displays real-time brain signals recorded by the Link, converting them into visual data or images. Users can customize Link’s functionality through Telepathy, adjusting sensitivity, selecting controlled devices, and managing personal profiles.

Despite sounding like science fiction, Neuralink has made tangible progress and achievements. Last May, Neuralink received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to recruit participants for its first human clinical trial involving brain implants in paralyzed individuals. The trial, named PRIME, aims to evaluate the functionality, safety, and reliability of the wireless brain-machine interface, as well as the implant and surgical robot. Neuralink plans to recruit four volunteers aged 18 to 65 with high-level spinal cord injuries or limb paralysis, implant the Link, and observe whether they can control computers or phones through thought. The trial is expected to last two years, collecting data and feedback from participants.

In January of this year, Neuralink achieved a significant breakthrough by successfully implanting the Link in a human patient, enabling brain-computer communication. The patient, a man with high-level spinal cord injury due to a car accident, can now control his phone using the Link and Telepathy—for tasks like opening apps, sending messages, and browsing the web. Musk shared a video of the patient’s progress on social media, reporting no side effects or complications. This patient is among the first users of Neuralink’s upcoming product, Telepathy, which will be officially released later this year and made accessible to more paralyzed individuals.

Beyond improving the quality of life for paralyzed patients, Neuralink’s technology offers new possibilities for treating other neurological conditions. Musk has suggested that if the late physicist Stephen Hawking had access to Neuralink’s technology, he could have communicated through thoughts without relying on a speech synthesizer. Musk also believes that Neuralink could restore vision for the blind, allowing them to perceive spectrums beyond human vision. Additionally, Neuralink’s technology may aid in treating psychological and neurological disorders such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, and epilepsy by modulating brain chemicals and currents to enhance emotions and sleep.

Neuralink’s impact extends beyond medicine—it holds scientific significance. Musk’s ultimate goal is human-AI symbiosis, preventing AI from surpassing and replacing humans. He views the human brain as a finite information processor, while AI is limitless. To compete with AI, enhancing our information processing capacity requires brain-machine interfaces. Musk envisions Neuralink’s technology allowing humans to upload consciousness and memories to the cloud, facilitating communication and learning with AI, and even achieving consciousness transfer and immortality. However, this dream of brain-computer integration comes with risks and challenges. Neuralink’s intervention in the most complex human organ—the brain—raises ethical and societal questions. Will Neuralink affect free will and personality? Could it be misused or infiltrated, threatening privacy and security? These issues demand thorough discussion and resolution before widespread adoption of Neuralink’s technology