Neuralink, Elon Musk and the monkey who plays Pong with thought

In a live broadcast on Clubhouse in early February, Elon Musk had anticipated the presence of a " monkey – cyborg " in the Neuralink laboratories , thanks to a brain chip, designed for the development of neural interfaces, it is able to play Pong with the thought . Initially the magante's statements had left many perplexed about the actual possibility of a monkey controlling a computer system with the power of thought alone.

The testimony comes to us with a video on YouTube with the name "Monkey MindPong" from Neuralink herself starring Pager, a 9-year-old macaque, who plays the video game in a completely telepathic way.

From minute 2.15 you can observe Pager playing Pong using only the thought.

The chip was implanted in the monkey's brain about six weeks before the video was made. In particular, two Links were implanted, one in the left motor cortex and another in the right motor cortex in the areas of the brain that control the movement of the hands and arms. They are responsible for amplifying and digitizing the voltage recorded by each electrode mounted inside the Links.

During the first phase it was necessary to teach to play the monkey in a "traditional" way. If the game had been played correctly, the macaque would have received a banana smoothie. Just as he played in a traditional way, the 1024 sensor electrodes were in charge of identifying the neurons activated by the primate in correspondence with every movement that he wanted to make the video game do.

It was thus possible to create a customized predictive model based on Pager's brain. The second and last phase, based on this previous mapping, saw the macaque move its fingers without the aid of the joystick, using only a wireless channel activated by the brain chip , called N1 link. From what can be seen from the images, the experiment was perfectly successful.

The precursors of Pager

However, this is not the first successful experiment of communication through brain impulses. In fact, already Erik Sorto , who remained quadriplegic following a gunshot wound, thanks to a brain implant carried out in California was able to use his brain to move a robotic arm to play, lift small weights and drink a beer. Actions that in everyday life we ​​would define as normal.

The first results of Neuralink instead were exposed by Musk in August 2020 with the experiment on the piglet Gertrude. It mounted the same Links of Pager with the aim of recording the tactile signals of the snout of the pig that explored the surrounding environment.

Not just the monkey playing with thought: the future of Neuralink

The results obtained by Elon Musk's company represent an intermediate step towards what are the actual objectives of the company . Through Twitter Elon Musk revealed that:

"Neuralink's first product will allow a paralyzed person to use a smartphone with their mind faster than someone using their thumbs"

Elon Musk

Elon Musk, South African entrepreneur who founded Neuralink.
Elon Musk, South African entrepreneur who founded Neuralink.

And thinking bigger will allow paraplegics to walk again . What was once thought to be science fiction is becoming a reality and the possible applications are almost endless. In fact, as Massimo Gaggi wrote, it cannot be ruled out that Elon Musk points to the man-machine symbiosis, that is: "the enhancement of the brain capacity of the individual to avoid being overtaken by an increasingly powerful artificial intelligence capable of overcoming the human one. "

Skeptical instead Mark Zuckerberg who, with the same objective of developing human possibilities, with Oculus is experimenting with different paths and thus commented on Neuralink's approach:

"I don't think millions of people are willing to have their skull drilled"

Mark Zuckerberg

In any case , 2021 represented a further step towards what is called posthumanism or transhumanism .

The article Neuralink, Elon Musk and the monkey who plays Pong with thinking comes from Tech CuE | Close-up Engineering .