Your Neuralink Questions, Answered

Elon Musk’s neurotechnology company has implanted its first chip in a human brain, according to the founder, and he said the patient is recovering well.

Elon Musk’s biotech startup, Neuralink, implanted a chip in the very first human brain this week, the tech billionaire said in an X post Monday, adding that “initial results show promising neuron spike detection.”

Musk’s company received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to conduct a trial on humans in September, called the PRIME Study (Precise Robotically Implanted Brain-Computer Interface).

Founded in 2016, the company’s goal is to connect human brains directly to computers. Neuralink’s first product, according to Musk, is called “Telepathy.”

“[It] enables control of your phone or computer, and through them almost any device, just by thinking,” he claimed on X. “Initial users will be those who have lost the use of their limbs. Imagine if Stephen Hawking could communicate faster than a speed typist or auctioneer. That is the goal.”

In a blog post in September, Neuralink said its first human study would aim to evaluate the safety of its implant (N1) and surgical robot (R1) and assess the initial functionality of the brain-computer interface (BCI) for enabling people with paralysis to control external devices with their thoughts.

The trial would consist of an R1 robot surgically placing the N1 implant’s ultra-fine and flexible threads in a region of the brain that controls movement intention, adding that those with quadriplegia due to cervical spinal cord injury or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) may qualify for the study.

“Once in place, the N1 Implant is cosmetically invisible and is intended to record and transmit brain signals wirelessly to an app that decodes movement intention,” the company said. “The initial goal of our BCI is to grant people the ability to control a computer cursor or keyboard using their thoughts alone.”

While Musk says the initial goal of the technology is to help those with paralysis, the founder has clearly stated that his end goal is to merge the human brain with artificial intelligence.

Musk claims that the company’s technology is safe for human use, though there’s no evidence to prove this just yet. If the technology is truly safe and effective in humans, it could be life-changing for those living with paralysis (which includes more than 5.4 million in the United States alone).

But despite Musk’s assurances and approval from the FDA, many experts have expressed concerns about using the technology on humans.

A Wired report published in September found that monkeys used in the company’s animal trials were subjected to gruesome suffering before eventually needing to be euthanized as a result of the Neuralink implants (Musk has denied this to be true). Invasive surgeries needed to implant the chips also present serious risks, including brain damage, hemorrhage, infections, and more.

While the specifics are still largely unknown, this kind of technology is always incredibly expensive. One study on brain-computer interfaces in medicine said that “invasive BCIs entail substantial costs for initial implantation, plus the cost of ongoing technical support.”

According to Bloomberg, each implant will cost $10,500, which will include exams, implantation, and labor. Insurers will be charged $40,000. Neuralink is projected to be making $100 million within five years.

Security experts have long warned of the potential dangers of AI reaching the same level as human intelligence. And since Neuralink’s goal is to connect brains with computers, the merging of the two could allow hackers to quite literally infiltrate the human brain and take control over someone’s thoughts and actions — the consequences of which could be incredibly dangerous.

Jason Lau, the chief information security officer at Crypto.com, said in a Forbes article that “hackers are usually one step ahead of security protocols, so it's not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’ they will attack a Neuralink-type device.”

While AI advancement is inevitable and has the potential to do plenty of good, experts contend that this must be done thoughtfully and carefully to avoid catastrophic results.


Leave a reply

Your email will not be published. All fields are required.