Elon Musk’s Neuralink may be busy implanting brain chips in animals, but the co-founder of the brain-computer interface startup is also thinking of more bizarre experiments, including a real-life “Jurassic Park”. Unlike the film, the goal would not be to resurrect the DNA of ancient dinosaurs, however, and crossed fingers would also not involve fury from loose lizards.
In “Jurassic Park” – originally a series of books by Michael Crichton, followed by a series of increasingly ridiculous films – scientists extract DNA from dinosaurs of mosquitoes and other insects trapped millions of years ago in amber. Although damaged, the original DNA is combined with the DNA of modern reptiles, and the recreated dinosaurs are reborn.
Obviously, because we can’t get good things and go unpunished, dinosaurs get loose, people get eaten, kids get almost certain PTSD that will require therapy for life and Jeff Goldblum smoked for the camera several times. Scientists have discovered holes in the fictional DNA theory suggested by Crichton, but Neuralink co-founder Max Hodak has a few different ideas in mind.
“We could probably build Jurassic Park if we wanted to,” he tweeted over the weekend. “They wouldn’t be genetically authentic dinosaurs, but [shrug emoji]. Perhaps 15 years of creation + engineering to obtain new super-exotic species.
Unsurprisingly, given Hodak’s role at Neuralink, questions about how the brain’s interface technology could be relevant quickly began to arise. It seems, however, more that the executive is thinking of broader ideas for conservation and beyond, as genetic manipulation becomes more common.
“Biodiversity (antifragility) is definitely valuable; conservation is important and makes sense, ”continued Hodak. “But why do we stop there? Why don’t we try more intentionally to generate new diversity? “
These genetic experiments, especially where human genetics is involved, usually involve legal and regulatory issues. Gene therapies, for example, have been presented as potentially huge improvements for the treatment of conditions such as neurodegenerative diseases, but are covered by strict approval requirements. Stem cell research, likewise, promises potentially huge medical advances, but falls under a series of legal controls.
In a very similar way, the technology around the brain-machine interfaces that Neuralink is exploring is also at the forefront not only of research, but also of legal restrictions. As with gene therapies, one of Neuralink’s promises is that it can help solve anything from depression to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. However, there are also concerns that neurotechnology in general may exceed the limits of privacy and research laws that, at the moment, are simply not configured to consider the nuances they bring.
At the moment, the likelihood that Elon Musk will get a velociraptor analogue to ride around Texas looks rather small, even though his partner Neuralink finds the idea of modern dinosaurs nearly viable. Currently, Neuralink’s practical experiments have been a little more humble, including the implementation of basic iterations of startups’ chips in pigs and monkeys.