In Iain M Banks’ series of science fiction novels about a future society called the Culture, its members wear “neural laces”. Grown from a seed implanted in the brain at birth, these human-machine interfaces link to artificial intelligence and can access ‘“dataverses” of information. They can take a copy of the brain at death, upload it to a cloud and allow the wearer’s consciousness to survive.

Elon Musk, the headline-grabbing billionaire and longtime fan of Banks’ work, was inspired by these laces when he came up with the idea for Neuralink, a medical research company exploring the frontiers of bioelectronics. In a presentation, Musk said he hoped to begin trials of the company’s implants, intended to allow computer-to-brain communication, by the end of 2019.

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