Elon Musk, Neuralink’s billionaire founder, said the first human received an implant from the brain-chip startup on Sunday and is recovering well, in a post on X (formerly Twitter) on Monday.
The company’s goal is to connect human brains to computers, and it says it wants to help tackle complex neurological conditions.
“Initial results show promising neuron spike detection,” Musk added.
Enables control of your phone or computer, and through them almost any device, just by thinking.
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.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 30, 2024
Spikes are activity by neurons, which the National Institute of Health describes as cells that use electrical and chemical signals to send information around the brain and to the body.
The startup’s Prime study is a trial for its wireless brain-computer interface to evaluate the safety of the implant and surgical robot.
It will assess the functionality of the interface, which enables people with quadriplegia, or paralysis of all four limbs, to control devices with their thoughts, according to the company’s website.
Neuralink received FDA clearance last year for its first trial to test the company’s implant in humans, a critical milestone for the startup. Reuters reported in June that the company was valued as high as five billion dollars based on private stock trades.
The company announced the implant trial in September. It said that, during the study, a robot developed by the company will surgically place the implants’ “ultra-fine” threads that help transmit signals in participants’ brains.
Elon Musk’s vision for Neuralink and its critics
Elon Musk believes that Neuralink has the potential to become one of the most important technologies of our time. He envisions a future in which implantable brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) are as ubiquitous as smartphones, and they have the potential to change the way we live, work, and interact with the world around us.
His supporters say that BCIs could help individuals with paralysis or other neurological conditions regain control over their limbs and movement. They also argue that they could enhance our cognitive abilities, allowing us to learn faster and retain more information.
BCI’s could provide a direct pathway to the vast repository of information on the internet, allowing us to learn and explore at an unprecedented pace.
However, Elon Musk’s project has many critics, including the potential for infections and brain damage. Implanting electrodes into the brain carries inherent risks of infection, inflammation, and damage to brain tissue. Critics argue that Neuralink has not adequately addressed these safety concerns or presented long-term safety data.
BCIs could potentially collect and transmit a vast amount of personal and sensitive information about individuals’ thoughts, emotions, and experiences. Concerns arise about the potential for misuse of this data, including surveillance, discrimination, and manipulation.
The ability to control or enhance human cognition and behavior raises profound ethical questions. Critics worry about the potential for creating a divide between those with and without BCIs, as well as the ethical implications of altering human consciousness and free will.