Here’s your daily tech digest, by way of the DGiT Daily newsletter, for Wednesday, July 17, 2019!
1. Neuralink: Elon Musk’s company working on brain attachments to boost your mind
Last night in San Francisco, Elon Musk gave a presentation with the first details into what Neuralink has been up to. So far, since founding in 2017 after raising $158 million (including $100 million from Musk), the work has been secretive.
Now we know the work has been focusing on an end goal to develop “ultra high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect humans and computers.”
So what did we learn?
- The Neuralink team has been working on a “sewing machine-like” robot, that can implant ultra-fine flexible threads into brains.
- These threads are just 4 to 6 μm in diameter, smaller than a human hair, and are placed adjacent to neurons to detect activity, and relay information back.
- The work builds on decades of academic research, and the team has been working on rats and mice, and the aim is to implant threads deep into a human brain in time, after FDA approval, as soon as the second quarter of next year.
- Bloomberg relayed information via a pre-briefing, including the detail that this new technology had been inserted into the brain of a rat. Via a USB-C port, of all things, the team successfully recorded the information being transmitted by its neurons:
- “A wire attached to a USB-C port in its head transmitted its thoughts to a nearby computer. The crackle of its neurons firing could be heard over a speaker while software recorded and analyzed its brain activity, measuring the strength of brain spikes.”
- Musk also surprised his own team by admitting during the presentation, “A monkey has been able to control a computer with its brain.”
- The New York Times dampened things somewhat, noting: “Independent scientists cautioned that results from laboratory animals might not translate into human success and that human trials would be required to determine the technology’s promise.”
- The aim would be to test the technology on quadriplegic patients with upper spinal cord (C1-C4) injuries.
- For now, drilling into the skull is required. The team hopes to be able to improve this process with laserbeams cutting much much smaller holes in the future.
- True to form, Musk was mixing end-of-the-world concerns with his technological ambitions. He opined the tech is “important on a civilization-level scale,” i.e. the man vs machine battle.
- “Even in a benign AI scenario, we will be left behind,” said Musk. “With a high-bandwidth brain-machine interface, we can have the option of merging with AI.”
- That is to say, with the development of a true brain-computer interface, humanity could “come along for the ride.”
- For now, though, in short, Neuralink is taking first steps towards implants being placed in the brain.
- Initially, Neuralink is hoping to offer disabled and disadvantages people new ways to communicate.
- Further down the line is more of the stuff that makes science-fiction become reality, adding a computer connection to your brain for learning, communication, and more.
- Would you line up to be one of the first to get a chip in your brain?
2. Europe will reportedly launch a major probe into Amazon’s business practices, in days (CNBC).
3. The $139 Nokia 2.2 brings back the removable battery (Ars Technica). Hooray!
4. Redmi K20, K20 Pro launched in India: Here’s everything you should know (Android Authority).
5. Google is bringing 65 new emoji to Android Q, including sloth, waffles (Android Authority).
6. Apple plans to start funding ‘original and exclusive’ podcasts (MacRumors). A reminder your DGiT Daily podcast is free, and exclusively for everyone who wants it.
7. NASA bets on a spacecraft that can 3D print and self-assemble in orbit (Discover).
8. The 5G health hazard that isn’t: no danger from 5G (NY Times).
9. Highlights from the Senate hearing with Facebook’s David Marcus on the proposed Libra cryptocurrency, and what was left unanswered (TechCrunch). “‘Yes,’ Libra will comply with all U.S. regulations and not launch until the U.S. lawmakers’ concerns have been answered.”
10. FaceApp is blowing up (again) as people age themselves and then post the results – here’s one from LeBron James. Also, it’s run by a Russian company and people are questioning everything about it (TechCrunch).
11. “Redditors with interesting hobbies- what do you do and why?” r/askreddit.
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