Elon Musk is starting yet another company, this time to create implantable brain chips to treat neurological disorders and one day, perhaps, protect us from evil robot overlords.
In a tweet Monday night, Mr. Musk confirmed a Wall Street Journal article on the new company, called Neuralink.
“Long Neuralink piece coming out on @waitbutwhy in about a week. Difficult to dedicate the time, but existential risk is too high not to,” he tweeted.
Wait But Why is a blog by Tim Urban that has chronicled Musk’s business history at Tesla, as a renewable energy and electric car company, and at the rocket and space exploration company SpaceX.
Neuralink, now in an “embryonic” stage, will pursue so-called “neural lace” technology, implanting tiny electrodes to treat brain disorders such as epilepsy and serious depression, according to the Wall Street Journal story. More rudimentary electrodes already are used to treat Parkinson’s disease.
But Musk’s implants one day could be used to enhance brain function for otherwise healthy people, providing humans with mental tools against what Musk sees as a potentially dangerous rise of artificial intelligence, a phenomenon he thinks could put all of humankind at risk as robots take over more human tasks, and take on roles of their own.
Meantime, Musk will be busy running SpaceX and trying to get his mass-market Tesla Model 3 electric car out on time — it’s due to go on sale in limited numbers later this year. He’s also involved in the Hyperloop project, which seeks to transport passengers long distances on capsules that travel through tubes, and the Boring Company, more of an idea than a business at present, to dig tunnels to help solve traffic problems in Los Angeles and elsewhere.
According to the Wall Street Journal story, entrepreneur Max Hodak acknowledged that he is a founding member of the Neuralink team. He also founded Transcriptic, a robotic lab services company. The story also said that Neuralink had hired Vanessa Tolosa, an engineer at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and an expert in flexible electrodes; Philip Sabes, a professor at UC San Francisco, who studies how the brain controls movement; and Timothy Gardner, a professor at Boston University, known for implanting tiny electrodes in the brains of finches to study how the birds sing.
The story seemed to take Wait But Why’s Mr. Urban by surprise.
“So there’s this secret thing I’ve been secretly working on for the past few weeks, and it was a secret. But then today I guess some parts of the secret thing that was secret were leaked, and now it’s not really a secret anymore,” he wrote on the site.
Wait But Why uses simple stick figures to explain complicated subjects that range from global warming to artificial intelligence. In 2015, Musk invited Urban to feature him on the site.