Neuralink: Elon Musk can implant his brain chips in humans

computer-brain interface
Neuralink: Elon Musk can implant his brain chips in humans

Elon Musk has big plans for Neuralink

© Susan Walsh/AP/dpa/DPA

Whether Twitter, Tesla or SpaceX: Elon Musk dances at many weddings. Now another of his companies has made a breakthrough: Neuralink is allowed to test its chips built into the brain on humans for the first time. Musk sees technology as humanity’s only chance to keep up with AI.

It’s a vision that sounded like science fiction for a long time: with a direct connection between the brain and computer, people should be able to communicate with each other without detours such as a mouse or screen. Now one has come a significant step closer to this idea: Elon Musk’s company Neuralink is allowed to test its brain implant in a human study for the first time.

The company announced this on Twitter yesterday. According to the company, the FDA, which is also responsible for the approval of medical devices, has approved an application for Neuralinks. However, Neuralink has not yet given the exact aim of the study, its timing or other details such as the number of subjects and their selection.

Direct connection to the machine

The expectations of the technology are high. A direct connection to the brain would not only provide numerous conceivable options for enabling people with disabilities or serious illnesses to communicate with the outside world again. It could also suggest options to treat mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or depression. Some researchers are also hoping for new possibilities in the fight against addiction and obesity. Even communication between people directly from brain to brain is conceivable.

Going even further, the chips could even help to break down the boundaries between humans and computers. Musk also seems to have this vision in mind. As long as we communicated with the machines by speaking or typing, we would slow ourselves down, he explained in a conversation with the then Alibaba boss Jack Ma back in 2019. “Human speech sounds to them like whale songs.” Even then, he warned that computers and artificial intelligence will overtake humans. “The developers often don’t want to imagine that something is smarter than they are. But the AI ​​will be many times smarter than us,” he predicted at the time.

He therefore saw a direct connection via the brain as the only way to keep up with the technology at all. He brushed aside ethical concerns: “We are so closely connected to our smartphones that we are cyborgs anyway,” he said confidently. Find out more about the conversation here.

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concerns of the authorities

The fact that Neuralink has now received FDA approval is also remarkable because Musk has announced several times since 2019 that it is ready for human testing. According to “Reuters”, however, the company had only tried to get the appropriate approval at the beginning of 2022. Insiders told the news agency that the agency raised various concerns, such as the lithium-ion batteries used, which would need to be installed directly in the brain with the device. The wiring and possible injuries to the test subjects caused by the installation also raised concerns. They have now apparently been cleared out by Neuralink.

Previously, Neuralink had only tested its product on monkeys. It was not without difficulties: Two US authorities are investigating independently of each other because of the tests against the company. He is accused of violating animal welfare laws and of not adequately securing bacterially contaminated materials during transport.

Sources: neural link, Reuters

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