Mark Zuckerberg and his paediatrician wife Priscilla Chan have sold close to 30 million shares of Facebook to fund an ambitious biomedical research project, called the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), with a goal of curing all disease within a generation.A less publicised component of that US$5 billion programme includes work on brain-machine interfaces, devices that essentially translate thoughts into commands. One recent project is a wireless brain implant that can record, stimulate and disrupt the movement of a monkey in real time.In a paper published in the highly cited scientific journal Nature on Monday, researchers detail a wireless brain device implanted in a primate that records, stimulates, and modifies its brain activity in real time, sensing a normal movement and stopping it immediately. Those researchers are part of the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, a non-profit medical research group within the CZI.Scientists refer to the interference as “therapy” because it is designed to be used to treat diseases like epilepsy or Parkinson’s by stopping a seizure or other disruptive motion just as it starts.
While some researchers focus on using them to help assist people with spinal cord injuries or other illnesses that affect movement, others aim to see them transform how everyone interacts with laptops and smartphones. Both a division at Facebook formerly called Building 8 as well as an Elon Musk-founded company called Neuralink have said they are working on the latter.
We want people to do the thing that’s crazy, the thing that other people wouldn’t try(Joe DeRisi, co-president of the Biohub)