What has happened?

Once again Elon Musk is blurring the line between human and machine in ways we thought were only possible in science fiction. His latest startup Neuralink, is an advancement in brain-computer interfaces, making it possible for people to interact with devices using their thoughts instead of a keyboard, mouse, or touchscreen.

With this system, a trained robot would drill a hole into a person’s head and implant the Neuralink chip into their skull, connecting to the brain with thousands of small threads. These threads then detect and record the electrical signals in the brain, and transmit this information outside the body and straight to our smart devices. Although this may seem invasive or unnecessary to most people, it could be a life-changing breakthrough for those afflicted with brain disorders or illnesses and Musk hopes to start testing these threads in humans by the end of next year.

Helping patients with paralysis, by decoding their brain signals and allowing them to “speak” their thoughts through technology is only the short-term goal for Neuralink. The long-term goal, according to Musk, is “to achieve a symbiosis with artificial intelligence” by developing a technology that enables humans “merging with AI” so that we won’t be “left behind” as AI systems become more and more advanced.

The Media Store Take

Neuro is the natural progression in the trend of personalised behavioural-based data. Facebook have also recently announced it’s funding of research on brain-machine interfaces capable of picking up thoughts and translating them into words as they delve deeper into the broader applications of social media within the marketing and communications landscape.

Neuralink and Facebook’s potential ability to control digital devices using thoughts alone would mean that they will need access to our brain data. This of course, raises many ethical concerns, particularly around data sharing and the potential to influence behaviour in unethical ways. Therefore like any other personal data usage, marketers need to be transparent, and provide full disclosure of potential neuro data use with the ability for consumers to opt-in and/or opt-out.

Jeanette Bonnici