Max Hodak, the president of Neuralink, a company that aims to connect human brains with computers which was cofounded by Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, has said he left the company a few weeks ago. Hodak did not provide any reason for his departure.
In a post on Twitter on Saturday, Hodak, who is also a Neuralink cofounder, said he learned “a ton” at the company and that he remained a “huge cheerleader” for it. Although Hodak did not reveal where he was going next, he mentioned he was moving on to new things. In a response to a comment, he did seem to cross out “Jurassic Park” as one possible option, a reference to his recent statement that Neuralink could probably build a real-life version of Steven Spielberg’s dinosaur clone park.
“Wouldn’t be genetically authentic dinosaurs but,” Hodak stated on Twitter on April 4, adding a man shrugging emoji. “Maybe 15 years of breeding + engineering to get super exotic novel species.”
As someone who used to have nightmares about dinosaurs as a child because of Jurassic Park, I say no thank you.
Launched in 2017, Neuralink aims to use ultra-high bandwidth brain interfaces, or implantable chips, to connect human brains with computers. Musk has stated a variety of uses for the product, from enabling someone with paralysis to use a smartphone with their mind to allowing paraplegics to walk again. Neuralink could also help humans achieve a “symbiosis” with artificial intelligence, according to Musk, allowing us to be on the same level as our advanced technologies.
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Neuralink made headlines in April when it stated that it managed to get a monkey named Pager to play the video game Pong
with its mind and published a video that apparently demonstrated this. Researchers had implanted a Neuralink on either side of the nine-year-old macaque monkey’s brain about six weeks before they recorded the video.
Before learning to play Pong, researchers taught Pager how to use a joystick, rewarding him with a banana smoothie delivered through a straw when he moved a cursor to a lit-up block on the screen. This exercise allowed the Neuralink devices in his brain to record its activity via the more than 2,000 electrodes implanted in the motor cortex regions, which coordinate hand and arm movements.
The data was then fed into a Neuralink decoder algorithm so that it could predict the monkey’s intended hand movements. After a few minutes of calibration, the decoder understood Pager’s neural patterns well enough that the monkey no longer needed the joystick to move the cursor to the block. Pager could move it with his mind, the video’s narrator stated. A demonstration of so-called MingPong ensued.
Monkeys aren’t the only ones with Neuralinks in their brains. The company is also testing its technology on pigs, although it hasn’t published any videos of pigs playing Pong. Musk has stated that the Food and Drug Administration had granted Neuralink the status of a “breakthrough device,” a classification that speeds up the development, assessment, and review of medical devices.