Facebook, Tesla, And The Future Of Brain-Chip Technology
With Facebook announcing the purchase of brain-computing developers CTRL-labs, we ponder the implications of brain-chip technology, including market leaders Neuralink – a subsidiary of Tesla – and what the technology means for investors in the two companies.
One of the top recent stories in tech innovation has been Facebook’s (NASDAQ: FB) acquisition of telepathic-robotics startup CTRL-labs for between $500 million and $1 billion. CTRL-labs had been working on technology that specializes in allowing humans to control computers using their brains.
Think of it this way: the smartphone was a laughable concept in the ’80s and now it is worth a global market value of $355 billion. It is one of the largest industries on the planet, but hardware sales are in decline. Could the next big thing be a brain-chip that controls your device, or potentially is the device itself, allowing communication and storage along with countless other possibilities? It is a laughable concept, just like the smartphone was but now, Facebook, a company with a proven record of making money, hold a possible forerunner technology to this brain-chip.
The thought of Facebook controlling a possible precursor to mind control is somewhat daunting, but it is not even the biggest story in brain-control technology this year. That honor goes to Mr. Elon Musk and Tesla’s (NASDAQ: TSLA) Neuralink program, unveiled over the summer.
What is Neuralink?
Back in May, Elon Musk shocked the world with the announcement of his startup’s advanced research into brain chips which would, in his own words, “achieve a sort of symbiosis with artificial intelligence.” He was then quick to reiterate that it would not be a mandatory implant. Thanks for that Elon!
Neuralink is not the first of its kind, with many companies also invested in achieving a neural control between the brain and machines, but Neuralink appears to be the most advanced so far, with testing reportedly beginning within a year.
In short, both Neuralink and now Facebook are working on chips that can be inserted into the human brain, allowing that same human to control or communicate with AI and machines. Why exactly do we need this?
For now, before your imagination wanders towards the wackiest ideas involving telepathic links between man and machine (anyone else thinking of Terminator?), it seems that the applications will be strictly medical at this time.
The plan for Neurolink’s immediate medical applications is in the treatment of Alzheimer's, with reports estimating that neural interfaces will be an ‘established option’ for effectively treating the disease by 2040. Though still a long way off, the aim is to use a robot (also designed by Neuralink) to operate a ‘sewing machine’ to implant threads that connect the chip to the brain's neural centers. These incredibly thin threads (⅓ the diameter of a human hair) are then implanted deep in the brain tissue, where it will be capable of performing both read and write operations at very high data volume.
What are the future applications?
After health applications, however, there are many more avenues that Big Tech can go down when it comes to brain-computing technology.
One of the main applications for technology such as CTRL-labs are now creating would be in prosthetics for amputees. The global robotic prosthetics market is expected to reach USD 1.76 billion by 2025, so by creating a link between the brain and control over the AI in a robotic prosthetic, such technology could revolutionize amputee treatment forever, and pioneer the market. Just short of cloning a body part, it would be the closest thing to regrowing a limb.
More futuristic applications are expected to follow, such as brain implants that allow people to virtually taste, smell and see without actually physically experiencing the sensation. People could also have a literal ‘data-bank’ in the brain, which would allow unlimited storage of memories, sensory experiences, and thoughts.
One final application that could possibly be its most dangerous — as well as profitable — involves military applications of brain-controlled AI weapons. By combining human instincts with advanced weaponized AI, a military could wage total war without the need to ever place soldiers in harm's way. The industry is growing with some estimating annual contracts in the $10-$20 billion range and others citing numbers as high as $100 billion.
What can go wrong?
We have already looked at how weaponized AI is the likely destination for technology such as Neuralink and CTRL-labs, and that comes with its own dangers, in the possibility of falling into the wrong hands.
Another danger in this ‘brave new world’ of ‘biohacking’, comes with just that: hacking! There is already a lot of mistrust in Big Tech companies due to their privacy of data breaches, and any technology that stores data will never be safe, and that goes double for the human brain. By implanting chips that can store memories and thoughts, the potential for hacking and control of a person's mind becomes a frightening reality. A potential scandal such as this could send a company’s stock price plummeting, especially for such an invasive failure of the product.
There is no denying that in the future, the first company to get a genuine breakthrough in this field will be set to dominate the industry for the foreseeable future, and at the moment, Facebook and Tesla are leading the way. Perhaps in 50 years, social media and electric cars will be but a subsidiary of these companies greatest achievement: a mind-chip...
God help us all!
MyWallSt operates a full disclosure policy. MyWallSt staff currently hold long positions in Facebook and Tesla. Read our full disclosure policy here.