That means about 700 phosphenes could make a useful form of vision, even though it’s nothing like natural sight, which is incredibly rich, in color, and travels along a million axons from the eye to the brain.
Exactly how the demo will be carried off is anyone’s guess. Although Musk is a drama-magnet, Neuralink has played it pretty conservative in the past, so we don’t expect anything too crazy. For example, while Neuralink once brought a pig onstage, we wouldn’t expect any kind of live demonstration involving a rhesus monkey. They’re a bit aggressive, and animal rights campaigners are already criticizing the company and its university partners for hurting animals. But there could still be a video demonstration involving a primate, as was the case with the monkey that played Pong.
Certainly, Neuralink could go wild if they wanted to. It’s entirely possible for Musk to type letters live, right into a monkey’s brain, and have the animal transcribe his message.
After taking over Twitter, Musk has been acting like a court jester, making rash but, in his view, true comments about free speech and other matters.
I think it would be pretty funny if all Musk’s recent tweets had been transmitted by him and typed by a monkey.
But that is my stretch goal. Everything about Neuralink tells me they will be fairly cautious and stick to a basic demonstration of implant-driven vision. The company wants to show that its device is useful, could help people, and outline a cool future that will attract talented engineers to apply for jobs there.
I could be wrong about all this. So I am definitely tuning in to Neuralink’s event. And so should you. Even though Neuralink’s demonstrations of brain-interfaces aren’t really new, it’s always a great show.
We thank the following researchers for sharing insights and background on vision implants in the preparation of this item: Eduardo Fernandez, Universidad Miguel Hernandez; Konrad Kording, University of Pennsylvania; Richard A. Normann, University of Utah; Sumner Norman, AE studio; and Anonymous.