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Anybody in business today should be aware of the latest in technology, and it’s hard to imagine innovation that has broader implications for business, technology, and humanity than this: Neuralink, a neuroscience startup owned by Elon Musk, is designing a brain-computer interface. Founded in 2017, the company’s operations were incredibly secretive until now (just see Neuralink’s less-than-descriptive website for yourself).
A whitepaper from Neuralink, published on July 17, stated, “We have built arrays of small and flexible electrode ‘threads,’ with as many as 3,072 electrodes per array distributed across 96 threads. We have also built a neurosurgical robot capable of inserting six threads (192 electrodes) per minute. Each thread can be individually inserted into the brain with micron precision for avoidance of surface vasculature and targeting specific brain regions.”
A demonstration followed almost immediately. Later that day, Bloomberg reported, “The startup showed it can record a rat’s brain activity via thousands of tiny electrodes surgically implanted alongside the animal’s neurons and synapses.”
The therapeutic promises of this innovation are profound. In some cases, it could provide a cure for blindness. This could also provide a solution for movement disorders and spinal cord injuries.
But who will be the first to benefit? According to Bloomberg, “The company will seek US Food and Drug Administration approval to start clinical trials on humans as early as next year. The goal is to drill four 8mm holes into paralyzed patients’ skulls and insert implants that will give them the ability to control computers and smartphones using their thoughts.”
Musk strives to achieve a symbiosis between human and computer, which matters as we approach a future in which the lines between human consciousness and AI are blurred. We all want technology to continue to serve humanity. However, there is presently no regulatory entity looking at AI or data standards (although we have recently seen the Department of Justice take a closer look at Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook).
Loyalty360 explored the role of trust in The State of Best-in-Class Customer Experience Report. Essentially, trust is the foundation which makes customer loyalty possible. When we, as humans, begin to integrate technology into ourselves, changing the way we interact and share information with companies, we’re going to need every assurance that we will maintain freedom of thought and that technology continues to serve us, and not the other way around.
“Customer Loyalty is predicated on the ability to take a great product or service and use irrational and rational constructs to enhance the behavior of the customer,” says Loyalty360 CEO Mark Johnson. “We see challenges with regard to data privacy and access, challenges with third party data (including excess data and making it ‘actionable’), and Musk’s technology has the potential to get an impactful first-party dataset directly from the minds of those brands are looking to impact. In an ever-evolving environment, this technological breakthrough may be the opening of Pandora’s box.”
If you’re curious as to what the technology looks like, The Wall Street Journal referred to the neurosurgical robot as “sewing-machine-like.” That is, it’s an elaborate machine with a sharp point. This robot can, according to The WSJ, “target very specific brain areas, helping surgeons avoid major blood vessels—an important consideration for minimizing inflammation and long-term damage.”
Neuralink has a relatively high profile, thanks to Musks’ involvement. However, there are several other startups pursuing similar projects, such as Paradromics and CTRL Labs, which, combined, have raised $260 million from venture capital, grants, and corporate investors.
Loyalty marketers, prepare yourselves! Maybe, in a decade’s time, your consumers will be engaging with your brand more directly than ever—with their thoughts alone. How you are able to understand, impact, and influence those thoughts is more important than ever.
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