Elon Musk is hoping patients with severe neurological conditions will be able to test wireless technology connecting the human brain to computers as soon as 2020.
The SpaceX founder’s startup Neuralink has sought approval from the US Food and Drug Administration and has already tested its technology on a monkey, which was able to control a computer with its brain, Mr Musk said.
Scientists behind the project have developed a tiny implant with more than 3,000 electrodes, attached to flexible threads measuring about the tenth of the size of a hair, capable of monitoring around 1,000 neurons.
It would link up to an app, allowing users to control a mobile device, or a mouse and keyboard on a computer.
Although the technology is initially aimed at helping those with brain disorders, the 48-year-old said a brain-machine interface is needed in the future to mitigate the “existential threat of AI”.
“This is something that I think is going to be really important at a civilisation level,” he explained at an event in San Francisco.
“This, I think, has a very good purpose, which is to cure important diseases, and ultimately to help secure humanity’s future as a civilisation, relative to AI.”
Neuralink is “aspirationally” aiming to implant the device in a human patient by the end of next year.
However, the entrepreneur warned that there was still much work to do, saying that the main purpose of the event was to recruit more staff.
“There is an incredible amount we can do to solve brain disorders, damage, and all this will occur quite slowly, so I do want to emphasise that it’s not going to be like, suddenly Neuralink will have this incredible neural lace and start taking over people’s brains,” he said.
“The overarching objective is to make the future better, aspirationally, and to hopefully not pave the road to hell with good intentions.”