Neuralink by Elon Musk and the Future of Communication Skills

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Neuralink is a company that is focused on developing brain-machine interfaces, which allow for communication between the brain and other devices. This technology has the potential to revolutionize the way we communicate with each other and with machines, allowing us to interact without the need for verbalization.

Transcript to the conversation.

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MD: Hello, advanced English learners. Welcome back to another episode. Today I'm joined by the one and only Greg for our conversation, and we are going to talk today about Neuralink, so we'll get into that right after this.

MD: Okay. So Neuralink, some of you may have already heard of this. Greg, you want to give us a little bit of a recap slash summary, the TLDR of what Neuralink is? 

Greg: Yeah, sure. Neuralink is a company by Elon Musk. And it is designed to uh, research and develop technologies around brain machine interfaces, which the shorthand for that is B M I.

Greg: So brain machine interfaces. So when you hear brain machine interfaces, what comes to mind? 

MD: Yeah, that's basically interacting with a machine with artificial intelligence or AI. 

Greg: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Well, What I think of is specifically the ability to basically, yeah, I would say operate alongside machines, right?

Greg: Have this sort of uninterrupted interaction with machines, like you said. But the other part of it is to interact with other people even. 

MD: So let's start to get into maybe what that would look like. For civilization, for society, the ability to be able to essentially read each other's thoughts or communicate without speaking seems so futuristic to me.

Greg: Yeah, I totally agree. And before we jump there, maybe let's just give a little more context for how this works, right? 

MD: I agree. 

Greg: So we're talking about like a chip, basically 

MD: an implant in one's brain. Yes. A chip that, that would be surgically Yes. Put in 

MD: there. 

Greg: Exactly. So a computer chip, right? You, every computer has a chip.

Greg: Most devices have a chip. Your phone has a chip. This is just another chip. Your credit card has a chip. Most of them do. Nowadays, this is a chip that they implant in your brain. And it sits there and it's actually integrated with the neurons in your brain. Can you believe that? 

MD: That's just so crazy. It's amazing, but it's a little bit terrifying too. Also, the fact that somebody would have to undergo a medical surgical procedure already, brain. I mean, I have a good friend who's a brain surgeon and just. The amount of schooling it took to get there. And the post doc work is just so complicated, right?

MD: So the fact that this might be on the market in a few years just is so mind blowing to me. 

Greg: Totally. Yeah. And it, to be clear, it is a ways off from being on the market. 

MD: Yeah. 

Greg: But people are really excited about the possibilities. And I think that's now a good segue into what you're asking, which is, what does a world look like where we have brain machine interfaces.

MD: Yeah.

Greg: Installed in us. 

MD: I know. 

MD: And does that traverse multiple languages? Does it transcend, communication altogether? Where does it, align with just your thoughts and is there overlap with just, you having your thoughts and then maybe somebody chiming in and saying, oh, I'm here too.

MD: In your thoughts, in your brain. 

Greg: Yeah. Yeah. So let's talk about what's possible, right? Yeah. So what's possible is you can now interact with people and with computers, other machines, any device you can think of without saying anything, right? That's crazy. 

MD: So without vocalizing or verbalizing 

Greg: Yeah,

MD: it's funny, so many people.

MD: So I have a separate channel on communication. , and I can't tell you the number of people who have, I have a video about shaky voice, and I can't tell you the number of people who have commented on that video about how their voice quivers or trembles when they're nervous. This is something that, is very natural.

MD: It happens to many of us, and the fact that that could completely be eliminated with something like brain interface. 

Greg: You bring up a very interesting point, which is maybe it isn't right. Okay. So I think of sort of brain to brain interaction. It's just another form of communication. And so maybe we haven't done this, we don't know, but maybe when I'm communicating with you using my brain maybe I also have kind of a shaky style of communication.

Greg: Or a confident style of communication. I think that there still are going to be communication styles when we're talking brain to brain. It's just that instead of vocalizing it, using our vocal cords and our diaphragm we're using our brain directly. And my guess is probably one of the biggest.

Greg: Challenges will be pacing the flow of thought. Because when we talk, we're naturally limited by our mouths and our vocal chords. When we're using just our brains, sometimes our thoughts race, right? There's that phrase, our racing thoughts. And , you're trying to communicate with someone, learning how to slow down your thoughts so that they can be intelligible to the recipient is also really important.

MD: Yeah, and it's interesting because you know what, if you're speaking in another language? 

Greg: Mm. Right. 

MD: How does that play out with the brain interface. There's so many questions and yeah, obviously no one has the answers yet because this hasn't been tried out yet, but I know that Elon Musk wants to get a human participant next year, or if obviously several human participants by as soon as next year, which seems so soon they tested something on a monkey recently. 

Greg: Yeah. If you look up Elon Musk Neuralink demo they showed a monkey moving a a mouse cursor across the screen and doing some interactions with the computer. Just using its brain, which is pretty amazing.

MD: That's just so beyond,

Greg: I know it's totally nuts. So you know how long it takes to go from that to a human? Is anyone's guess. Yeah. Probably one of the biggest challenges will simply be safety. We're talking about inserting something into a brain. A brain is a very sensitive organ.

Greg: It's not something you do casually, 

MD: not willy-nilly. 

Greg: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. 

MD: And it would be interesting how the whole process of rallying participants would go, right? Like these clinical trials that they're going to be starting to put together. Obviously it has to be voluntary.

MD: I wonder what we're very future forward, but I'm not going to sign up for that on the trials . 

Greg: Yeah when I was younger, I used to be really excited about how would you call this implants. 

MD: Yeah, implant technology. 

Greg: Yeah. Whether it's a chip or something in my, under my skin on my hand so I can wave my hand to check out at a cashier.

Greg: All these sort of cybernetic upgrade. Cyborg type upgrades, right? Yeah. You're basically enhancing your body with mechanical parts sounds great in concepts. But in practice, I've spent enough time now as I've started to learn software development and work with a lot of products, and take products through their dev development stages, I've learned how many things can go wrong.

Greg: And how many sort of hidden sort of problems there are behind the scenes. Often when you're using a product, let's say you're using Gmail or you're using Uber or Facebook, things feel pretty smooth. But if you get under the hood and actually look at what's going on, there's a lot of weird stuff happening there.

Greg: There's a lot of errors taking place. Most of them are silent errors. You don't really see them. There's a lot of stuff going on that you probably wouldn't want going on in your brain 

MD: With you being the person testing it out. Because if something were to go awry, meaning something were to go wrong, then, messing up the brain your brain waves and your neurons, and the synapses could be, dire. 

Greg: Sounds like bad news. The other thing of course is the risk of hacks, right? Oh yeah. So cybersecurity if this thing really can, control your thoughts and you can control how you interact with other people. Let's say a hacker gets in there and suddenly they have control over you.

Greg: That's not exactly an exciting prospect, in my opinion. 

MD: Yeah. That's like completely being like, you'll see that in sci-fi movies where they're like taken under a spell and they'll do things that they wouldn't in their right mind do. They're in like a trance or whatever. I don't know what the term would be really called, because again, we don't have this technology yet, but it's really interesting.

MD: So what are some of the positives of this kind of technology? Like why even go there? Like why did Elon even say, okay, Elon Musk , we're not on first name basis, but why did he come up with this technology? 

Greg: Yeah, it's a fair question. I would say foremost in the short. is the medical applications.

Greg: Let's say that, yeah. You had a stroke and you've lost your ability to speak. Using something like neurally could be very powerful. 

MD: That's true. 

Greg: Let's say you're paraplegic, right? 

MD: So taking the famous scientist Steven Hawkins. Steven Hawkings, who communicated through his computer.

Greg: Yeah. So that would be, yeah. A very robotic type voice. 

MD: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I can definitely see that as being a important step forward in the medical space. 

Greg: Yeah. 

Greg: It's a powerful tool to help people with handicaps, but his grander vision is to use this to enhance human productivity, right? Just think about how much faster you can think about things than you can physically do them. 

MD: So true. Now, my question there is, when we're communicating with people, . I always like to say, it's important that we think before we speak, so that we articulate our thoughts, we carefully think about, how do we convey the message as best and as clearly as possible to effectively communicate.

MD: Now that being said, if you're not able to filter your thoughts or really construct a well formulated as best you can sentence or utterance. Then is it going to be all jumbled and garbled because the way we think of something could be very different from how then we articulate it. 

Greg: Yeah. That goes to what we were discussing before.

Greg: Yeah. Which is how does one communicate eloquently using their brain. Yeah. And my guess is there is going to be a lot of assistance and processing by this chip to help filter and clarify what it is you're thinking to the other person. , you can think of it almost like autotune.

MD: I was just about to say that.

MD: Oh my gosh. Maybe I communicated too. I know. Okay. So we have these moments where I'm about to just say something or Greg's just about to say something. I literally was just about to say it sounds like 

MD: autotune. 

Greg: Yeah. Yeah. 

MD: Wow. Wow. 

Greg: So you can imagine these chips sort of auto tuning your thoughts so that they're not a crazy jumble.

Greg: Yeah. They come out as clear and of course that opens up a whole new can of worms. Is it filtering the thoughts the way you would like it to? Is it taking liberties and basically choosing to decide it has an opinion on how, what you wanted to say versus what you actually wanted to say.

MD: Could you set a tone for it? Could you say, I want this to be assertive, or I want it to be whimsical, or I want it to be friendly. 

Greg: That's fascinating too. If you're prone to losing your temper , maybe you can use something like this to, you may have angry thoughts, , but it'll filter them and say them in a very pleasant way.

Greg: I've seen this in movies. Yeah. Where the when there's a translator between two people and the one guy's yelling and screaming and then the translator. Politely translates it into some benign comment. 

MD: Or shares the words without the emotions. So they're very like placid 

Greg: or that yeah. Yeah. 

MD: So that's interesting.

Greg: It'd be interested in having this intermediary, but going back to your original question, the point here is that hopefully it can accelerate our ability to do things. Yeah. It just takes one inter. out of a process of going from idea to product, idea to service, whatever it is that, we as a human race are building.

Greg: We can just do that faster and more efficiently. 

MD: So if anything, this makes, you know, language learning, communication, training even more important, puts that even more at the forefront than it already is because we need to get even better, really at articulating our thoughts at communicating in a concise way avoiding fillers when and where possible, things like that. 

Greg: Yeah, I don't think there'll be any getting around that. Whether we're communicating, using our voices, our tonsils or using a brain machine interface. Yeah. The art of communication right, has so much more than it's so much more than just the, words that you're using and the grammar that you're using.

Greg: It has to do with how you're saying it and how you're framing an argument, how you're forming your thoughts and ideas. So yeah, there's a lot more to it. And that won't go away just because we're using a BMI versus our normal voice. 

MD: Fascinating so much to keep a pulse on here. And keep an eye out for, because, it seems like the technology is just getting so vastly.

MD: Compounded by everything that's happening that it's just accelerating. Yeah. 

Greg: Everything seems to be empowering. The other thing, right? So all these different parallel tracks of technology developing are conversion and they converge and create just incredible efficiencies and superpowers.

Greg: So that's exciting. And we just, we have to be mindful of the risks that come along with those superpowers. 

MD: A hundred percent. Yeah. With. Responsibility comes. What is it? The call on the way around with great risk. What is it? Just tell us. 

Greg: With great power comes great responsibility. 

MD: Is this Star Wars? Spider? 

Greg: Spider-Man. Spider-Man. 

MD: Okay. Another universe. I love the Marvel Universe. Yep. Say it again one more time. 

Greg: Yeah. Spider-Man is now Marvel. That's right. What's that?

Greg: With great power comes great responsibility, right?

MD: So being able to harness that power, responsibly use it.

Greg: I think that was his Uncle Benji telling him that. Telling Spider-Man that, cause remember Spider-Man's like a little boy. 

MD: Yeah. And is like use this wisely 

Greg: one thing, one of his elders, it was his Uncle Benji, I think. Yeah. Just told him, use your powers wisely.

MD: It's good advice. Good advice. Alright. We'll cap it at this, but there's always so much more we can dive into.

MD: We welcome your feedback, your thoughts, your comments. So share that in the community. We'll continue the conversation because it's a, it's always a good one. 

Greg: Yeah, definitely. 

MD: All right. Thank you so much for joining us. We'll see you in the next one. Bye for now.