Elon Musk Gets Green Light to Study Brain Implant in Humans


Elon Musk, the billionaire behind Tesla, SpaceX, and Twitter, has been cleared to take on a new challenge: implanting brain chips in humans. The US government’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave the green light to Neuralink, a start-up Musk founded in 2016, to study its brain-computer interface technology, which the company says could help restore paralysis and blindness by connecting human brain signals to computers or allow for a form of telepathy.

It’s the latest series of hurdles Neuralink has had to clear. The company, which has tested its chip on monkeys and pigs, had previously been criticized for its animal testing practices. Former employees say the company rushed experiments, leading to needless suffering and even death for some animals. According to a US legislator, it also lacked adequate oversight and had a “toxic culture” that made it difficult for scientists to work at the company.

The FDA’s approval is a significant success for the company, which has been trying to perfect its device for more than three years. It is a small, wireless chip that connects to the brain via tiny electrodes. It’s powered by a battery that recharges wirelessly. The neural network the chip creates allows a person to control computers or mobile devices with their thoughts. The Link can be inserted into a patient’s skull using a surgical robot that looks like a sewing machine. It uses a needle made of tungsten-rhenium alloy thinner than human hair to position the threadlike electrodes, then “sews” them in imaging to avoid piercing veins or arteries.

Scientists believe the implant will allow for the communication of 1,024 channels of neural activity, which is more than sufficient to enable basic telepathy. But that’s only a fraction of the information the brain sends to the body and is nowhere near enough for someone to operate a car or walk a dog. So the chip needs to be much more powerful, and its design must survive the wear and tear of life in a human’s skull.

Some experts question whether the implant will ever be ready to go into humans, especially given the long history of failed attempts at achieving a BCI that is reliable and practical enough for daily use. But the approval is a significant step for Neuralink, and its part of a more significant trend toward merging human and artificial intelligence. That’s a goal that Musk has outlined multiple times in recent years, and it may be vital in addressing the risks of runaway AI. But it will require a massive investment, and the company will face a long road of red tape and bureaucratic hurdles before it can hope to prove that its brain-computer interface is safe and effective for human use. The first clinical trial of the Link is expected to begin next year.

Anthony Jones

Meet Anthony Jones, an accomplished writer with a passion for creating compelling content that engages, educates, and inspires readers. With years of experience in the industry, Anthony Jones has honed their skills in crafting content across various formats, including blog posts, articles, eBooks, and more.

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