Elon Musk’s Neuralink may be busy implanting brain slices in animals, but the co-founder of a budding company for the brain-computer interface is also considering somewhat more exotic experiments, including the real-life “Jurassic Park”. Unlike the movie, the goal wouldn’t be to revive ancient dinosaur DNA, however, crossed fingers also wouldn’t involve the rampage of lizards.
In “Jurassic Park” – originally a series of books by Michael Crichton, followed by a series of increasingly ridiculous films – scientists extract dinosaur DNA from mosquitoes and other insects that were trapped millions of years ago in amber. Although the original DNA is damaged, it combines with that of modern reptiles, and reconstructed dinosaurs are born.
Obviously, because we can’t leave cute things unpunished, dinosaurs break up, people are eaten, children are left with near-certain PTSD that will require lifelong treatment, and Jeff Goldblum appears in camera multiple times. Scientists have made holes in Crichton’s fictional DNA theory, but Neuralink co-founder Max Hodak has a few different ideas in mind.
“Maybe we can build a Jurassic Park if we want to,” he tweeted over the weekend. “They wouldn’t be genetically purebred dinosaurs however [shrug emoji]. Maybe 15 years of education + engineering to get new super weird species. ”
Not surprisingly, given Hodak’s role in Neuralink, questions about how brain interface technology could be relevant quickly began to arise quickly. It appears, however, that the CEO is considering broader ideas of conservation and beyond, as genetic manipulation becomes more common.
“Biodiversity (preventing fragility) is definitely valuable; conservation matters and makes sense,” Follow Hodak. “But why stop there? Why not intentionally try to generate a new diversity?”
Genetic experiments like this, particularly in cases where human genes are involved, usually collide with legal and regulatory concerns. Gene therapies, for example, have been floated as potentially huge improvements to treat conditions like neurodegenerative diseases, but they are covered by strict consent requirements. Likewise, stem cell research promises huge potential medical breakthroughs but falls under a host of legal controls.
Much like this, the technology around brain and machine interfaces that Neuralink is exploring is also finding itself at a bleeding edge not only in research but from legal restrictions. As with gene therapies, one of Neuralink’s promises is that they can help treat anything from depression to Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. However, there are also concerns that neurotechnology in general could push the boundaries of privacy and research laws that, at present, are simply not geared to consider the nuances it brings.
For now, the likelihood that Elon Musk will acquire a Velociraptor counterpart to roam Texas appears to be somewhat slim, even if his Neuralink partner finds the idea of a modern dinosaur nearly possible. Neuralink’s hands-on experiments are currently more modest, including implanting core iterations of startup chips in pigs and monkeys.