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What are we predicting for Neuralink event?

byDr_Manhattan5d12th Jul 201910 comments

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Interesting exercise in AI-adjacent forecasting area (brain-computer interfaces). Curious if people want to specify some possible reveals+probabilities. https://twitter.com/neuralink/status/1149133717048188929

(if in the somewhat likely scenario you're relying on inside info please mention it)

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I predict with moderate confidence that we will not see:

  • 'Augmented reality'-style overlays or video beamed directly to the visual cortex.
  • Language output (as text or audio or so on) or input.
  • Pure tech or design demos without any demonstrations or experiments with real biology.

I predict with weak confidence that we won't see results in humans. (This prediction is stronger the more invasive the results we're seeing; a superior EEG they could show off in humans, but repair or treatment of strokes will likely only be in mice.)

(Those strike me as the next milestones along the 'make BCIs that are useful for making top performers higher performing' dimension, which seems to be Musk's long-term vision for Neuralink.)

They've mostly been focusing on medical applications. So I predict we will see something closer to:

  • High-spatial-fidelity brain monitoring (probably invasive?), intended to determine gross functionality of different regions (perhaps useful in conjunction with something like ultrasound to do targeted drug delivery for strokes).
  • Neural prostheses intended to replace the functionality of single brain regions that have been destroyed. (This seems more likely for regions that are somehow symmetric or simple.)
  • Results in rats or mice.

I notice I wanted to put 'dexterous motor control' on both lists, so I'm somehow confused; it seems like we already have prostheses that perform pretty well based on external nerve sites (like reading off what you wanted to do with your missing hand from nerves in your arm) but I somehow don't expect us to have the spatial precision or filtering capacity to do that in the brain. (And also it just seems much riskier to attach electrodes internally or to the spinal cord than at an external site, making it unclear why you would even want that.) The main question here for me is something closer to 'bandwidth', where it seems likely you can pilot a drone using solely EEG if the thing you're communicating is closer to "a location that you should be at" than "how quickly each of the four rotors should be spinning in what direction." But we might have results where rats have learned how to pilot drones using low-level controls, or something cool like that.

I mostly agree with Vaniver's predictions. That said, I wanted to add three specific predictions of my own that partially overlap with Vaniver's.

  1. I predict with medium confidence (60%) we'll see something promised in the near term (where near term is defined on medical/clinical trial scales not software company time scales, so next few [3] years) targeting neuro-degenerative diseases. For example, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and strokes all seem like decent candidates.
  2. I predict with lower confidence (~30%) there will be some sort of discussion of something longer term that promises to enhance or augment healthy humans, with no concrete product or timeline specified. I add the second clause, even though it makes the overall prediction less likely, because I realized I'd be surprised if an enhancement was in development and wanted to specify that as part of my prediction.
  3. I predict with lower confidence (30%) that all products discussed will be invasive, where invasive can include things that don't require surgery but still have to be ingested/injected.