Professor Andrew Jackson, Ilan Musk, Tesla discussed on The Economist: Babbage


Next up pandemic or no twenty twenty has been a bumper year, for Elon, musk inmate space x became the first private company ever to send humans into orbit. While over the past eight months, Tesla's market capitalization has more than quadrupled making it the most. Valuable car company on the planet. Last Friday another musk venture, the Niro technology company neural link which connect to computer into the human brain notched up what seems to be another win with public demonstration of its technology at use in. Aches. Aren't welcome to the product. Emma. Of Real excited we've got I think it's going to. Blow your mind. Shoot a form, the demo captured the public imagination, and trended wildly online. But as a computer enhanced human brain, really within reach the near link team is working on what's called the brain machine interface, and that involves electrodes of very spoil wise placed into the brain to record the electrical activity from brain cells. Andrew Jackson is a professor of neural interfaces at Newcastle University and what they demonstrated the other night was a device that they've built that can record. From one thousand and twenty four of these little wives about a thousand brain cells and the activity is processed by an implant that sits inside the skull, and then realize that activity wirelessly out to a receiver and the case of New Orleans pig Gertrude. I. Think her name was what activities specifically was being detected and relaid in the pig that we saw the electrodes were placed in. A sensory part of the brain related to the Peace Now. So. You're hearing are real time signals from the link in Grocery had. So this year link and says what? Was the activity of sensory neurons that were relying information about the the paycheck sniffing at various objects. They also showed a video I think they had recorded from brain cells in the motor area of the brain. When we have. Of our picks on a treadmill. Funny concept really in that video, they were suggesting that they were able to infer the movement of the pigs. On a treadmill from listening to these brain signals. In classical style this has been very snazzy presented and Garner a lot of attention but from your perspective someone who's been a lot in this field as an academic, is there anything particularly new or innovative about what neural incas done with this technology thing what they've done a nice job on is. A lot of the engineering of the device itself. So to some extent, I think they've made a lot of progress in the areas that perhaps you might expect a tech company well resourced to make make progress on. So so previously, lot of the work that has been done in animals and also some work has been using these techniques in humans has tended to use a cables connecting the electrodes in the brain through the skin to large racks of equipment. Computers and so forth powered from the mains in order to process and make sense of this data and what they've done is taken a lot of that electronics shrunk it down, made it low power. Enabling it to be placed within the skull and relaying these signals. Wirelessly, the other thing that they showed which I think is very nice is. A robot a bit like a sewing machine. To. Insert these electrodes and apparently automatically avoid blood vessels to do a minimum amount of damage. So I think all of this is very impressive where I am more skeptical is. The the claims that they're making of being able to. Sort of read thoughts and enhance brain function through this technology. There's there's quite a big gap between being able to record these brain cells compared to some of the claims that became rather more outlandish about being able to read thoughts and and read memories and things like that because to some extent that require much more progress in actually understanding how these signals relate to complex mental and cognitive functions does this have the markings of a turf war between academics and entrepreneurs because I know that he on must recently responded to? A news report in which your own criticisms of neuro link had been quoted and he said basically that his view was academics, overweight ideas and underweight bring them to fruition or less kindly that they're all talking no trousers what do you say to that? So I I think it would be very unfortunate if this ends up being a sort of tribal arguments, Elon Musk I'm sure recognizes that he's following in the footsteps of some very pioneering work in the academic field that really pushed the idea of brain machine interfaces forward of basic. Fundamental neuroscience research into practical demonstrations of devices that could help people with spinal cord injury. I think that from the academic point of view, we ought to see this as a success story that a technology that for a long time has been being developed in in the academic research arena is capturing the attention of near technology companies. So I did not mean to any of the comments that I made I didn't mean to turn this into a turf war I think that we will. All benefit from from the exchange of ideas and working together. You heard it here. First Turf War averted and Professor Jackson to end with a look forward musk said that the ultimate goal of neuro link is to usher in an age of quote super, human cognition in your view, does that claim that view of the future really belong in the realm of science fiction as far ahead as we currently see so I think it's very hard to judge these things I think that clearly Ilan Musk likes big ideas and he likes big kind of visions. I think that at the moment, the state of the technology president is that there hasn't really been demonstrated and I think it will be quite a while before anyone demonstrates a cognitive enhancement using this kind of brain machine interface technology that doesn't mean we shouldn't try and that doesn't mean that there's probably not a lot of very interesting science and maybe all sorts of other benefits that we will get along the way but I think it's important to be somewhat kind of modest and accepting of the fact that there's still an awful lot. We don't understand about the brain how the brain works and how intelligence works Professor Andrew Jackson thank you very much. Thank you for having.

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