Elon Musk’s Neuralink, a brain implant company, announced on Wednesday that it has begun recruiting people for its first human trial.
The company’s goal is to connect human brains to computers, and it wants to test its technology on people with paralysis.
A robot will help implant a brain-computer interface (BCI) that will let them control a computer cursor, or type, using thoughts alone.
The company won US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for its first human clinical trial in May, a critical milestone after earlier struggles to gain approval.
The FDA approval represented “an important first step that will one day allow our technology to help many people”, Neuralink said at the time.
Elon Musk’s Neuralink seeks 10 people with paralysis to start trials
Neuralink had sought approval to implant its devices in 10 people, former and current employees told news agency Reuters.
At the start of the six-year study, a robot would be used to surgically place sixty-four flexible threads, thinner than a human hair, on to a part of the brain that controlled “movement intention,” Elon Musk’s Neuralink announced.
Read Neuralink’s announcement here.
These allow Neuralink’s experimental N1 implant, powered by a battery that can be charged wirelessly, to record and transmit brain signals wirelessly to an app that decodes how the person intends to move.
Elon Musk’s Neuralink says people may qualify for the trial if they have quadriplegia due to injury or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) – a disease in which the nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain degenerate.
The vision for Neuralink
Musk has been working on Neuralink’s goal of using implants to connect the human brain to a computer for five years, but the company so far has only tested on animals.
In public comments over the years, Elon Musk has detailed a bold vision for Neuralink: both disabled and healthy people will pop into neighborhood facilities for speedy surgical insertions of devices with functions ranging from curing obesity, autism, depression or schizophrenia to web-surfing and telepathy.
Eventually, Musk has said, such chips will turn humans into cyborgs who can fend off the threat from sentient machines powered by artificial intelligence.
“I could have a Neuralink device implanted right now, and you wouldn’t even know,” Musk said recently.
In his new book about Neuralink’s founder, author Walter Isaacson reported that Musk was inspired by science fiction authors such as Iain Banks to pursue a “human-machine interface technology called ‘neural lace’ that is implanted into people and can connect all of their thoughts to a computer.”
Some scientists and ethicists believe that Neuralink could be potentially dangerous– not necessarily medically, but ethically.