Elon Musk’s Neuralink has performed its first human brain implant, and we’re a step closer to having phones inside our heads

Neuralink, Elon Musk's brain interface company, achieved a significant milestone this week, with Musk declaring on X (formerly Twitter), “The first human received an implant from yesterday and is recovering well.”

Driven by concerns that AI might soon outpace (or outthink) humans, Musk first proposed the idea of a brain-to-computer interface, then called Neural Lace, back in 2016. envisioning an implant that could overcome limitations inherent in human-to-computer interactions. Musk claimed that an interface that could read brain signals and deliver them directly to digital systems would massively outpace our typical keyboard and mouse interactions.

Four years later, Musk demonstrated early clinical trials with an uncooperative pig, and in 2021 the company installed the device in a monkey that used the interface to control a game of Pong.

It was, in a sense, all fun and games – until this week, and Musk's claim of a human trial and the introduction of some new branding.

Neuralink's first product is now called 'Telepathy' which, according to another Musk tweet, “Enables control of your phone or computer, and through them almost any device, just by thinking.”

As expected, these brain implants are not, at least for now, intended for everyone. Back in 2020, Musk explained that the intention is “to solve important spine and brain problems with a seamlessly implanted device.” Musk noted this week that “Initial users will be those who have lost the use of their limbs. Imagine if Stephen Hawking could communicate faster than a speed typist or auctioneer. That is the goal.”

Neural link devices like Telepathy are bio-safe implants comprising small disk-like devices (roughly the thickness of four coins stuck together) with ultra-fine wires trailing out of them that connect to various parts of the brain. The filaments read neural spikes, and a computer interface interprets them to understand the subject's intentions and translate them into action on, say, a phone, or a desktop computer. In this first trial, Musk noted that “Initial results show promising neuron spike detection,” but he didn't elaborate on whether the patient was able to control anything with his mind.

Musk didn't describe the surgical implantation process. Back in 2020, though, Neuralink introduced its Link surgery robot, which it promised would implant the Neuralink devices with minimal pain, blood, and, we're guessing, trauma. Considering that the implant is under the skin and skull, and sits on the brain, we're not sure how that's possible. It's also unclear if Neuralink used Link to install 'Telepathy.'

The new branding is not that far-fetched. While most people think of telepathy as people transmitting thoughts to one another, the definition is “the communication of thoughts or ideas by means other than the known senses.”

A phone in your head

Still, Musk has a habit of using hyperbole when describing Neuralink. During one early demonstration, he only half-jokingly said “It’s sort of like if your phone went in your brain.” He also later added that, “In the future, you will be able to save and replay memories.”

With the first Neuralink Telepathy device successfully installed, however, Musk appears to be somewhat more circumspect. There was no press conference, or parading of the patient before the reporters. All we have are these few tweets, and scant details about a brain implant that Musk hopes will help humans stay ahead of rapidly advancing AIs.

It's worth noting that for all of Musk's bluster and sometimes objectionable rhetoric, he was more right than he knew about where the state of AI would be by 2024. Back in 2016, there was no ChatGPT, Google Bard, or Microsoft CoPilot. We didn't have AI in Windows and Photoshop's Firefly, realistic AI images and videos, or realistic AI deepfakes. Concerns about AIs taking jobs are now real, and the idea of humans falling behind artificial intelligence sounds less like a sci-fi fantasy and more like our future.

Do those fears mean we're now more likely to sign up for our brain implants? Musk is betting on it.

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Elon Musk’s Twitter: a timeline of his six months as CEO

Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you've likely heard plenty about Elon Musk's Twitter takeover. In just over six months as CEO, Musk has tossed the platform into turmoil, but the season of change has yet to finish a-changing.

Musk has now officially stated his intent to step down as CEO, and will be handing the reins to NBCUniversal Executive Linda Yaccarino in late June. 

So, what will Yaccarino inherit when she steps up to the plate? Some would say a golden chalice whereas others would see a poisoned one, given the many controversial changes the platform has seen since it came under Musk's ownership. 

In the ongoing saga of Twitter 2.0, there has been a lot of news to parse through. To help, we've summarized the major milestones and changes the billionaire tech mogul has made to the platform since he acquired it in October 2022.

The first six months of Twitter 2.0 – a timeline

Analysis: So, what now?

Currently, we've no clue if Yaccarino views Musk's vision of Twitter 2.0 as a boon or a burden, but as it stands one thing is for sure; she's got a lot of damage control to do if she has any hope of turning around Twitter's current reputation with both advertisers and its users.

Yaccarino has already proved a divisive choice on several many fronts. Time magazine published an insightful piece discussing the concept of the “glass cliff” – women or other minority figures being hired into senior leadership roles at a time of crisis, setting them up for failure (see: every female UK Prime Minister – not to excuse their actions). This idea becomes especially poignant when you recognize the power Musk will still have over the platform as Executive Chair and CTO, effectively retaining his ability to veto and push through changes in his own vision. 

There are, of course, loyal Musk supporters (many of whom, I expect, make up the majority of Twitter Blue subscriptions) who will unwaveringly support the move just as they do every other hair-brained scheme from the soon-to-be-ex Chief Twit.

However, there is a subsection of Musk's following that gravitated to him as a figurehead for anti-wokeness, a movement associated with the alt-right and purveyors of online anti-social behaviors including misogyny, racism, and homophobia. 

For these individuals, Yaccarino poses a threat; she’s a woman, to start with, but she’s also associated with the World Economic Forum (WEF), which is regularly targeted by conspiracy theorists. Additionally, Yaccarino has previously broadcast left-leaning rhetoric, from promoting mask-wearing and vaccination to tackling fake news.

Conversely, Twitter users have been quick to highlight her close association with former US President Donald Trump, serving a two-year term on the administration's council on Sports Fitness and Nutrition, as well as some of the more dubious accounts she's following.

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Of course, other users were more than ready to point out that Yaccarino also follows a number of left-wing figureheads, including AOC. 

Ultimately,It seems as though neither side is really happy about her appointment right now, but the proof will be in the pudding. For whatever remains of the Twitter we once knew and loved (or at least, tolerated), I certainly hope her slightly muddy political talking points are less newsworthy than the positive change she'll hopefully bring to the platform. 

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