Elon Musk, CEO of Neuralink, anticipates starting human trials in six months

Elon Musk, CEO of Neuralink

Elon Musk: "Our first mass-produced product will look a lot like an iPhone 1."

It has been six years since Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, SpaceX, and currently Twitter, co-founded the brain-control interfaces (BCI) business Neuralink. Three years have passed since the company first displayed its "sewing machine-like" implant robot, two years since it implanted technology into pigs' heads, and just over 19 months since it implanted technology into primates, an endeavor that allegedly resulted in the deaths of 15 out of 23 test subjects. Elon Musk, the CEO of Neuralink, stated at the company's third "show and tell" event on Wednesday that "we think probably in about six months, we should be able to have a Neuralink placed in a person" following a one-month delay in October.

In the previous April 2021 status update, Neuralink experienced turbulent times: Max Hodak, the company's co-founder, discreetly left shortly after that incident, though he claimed to still be a "big supporter" for Neuralink's success. Then, in August of this year, that demonstration of confidence was dashed when Musk allegedly approached Synchron, the primary rival of Neuralink, about an investment possibility.

Earlier in February, Neuralink acknowledged that monkeys had perished while undergoing prototype testing for their BCI implants at the University of California, Davis Primate Center, but it denied claims of animal cruelty made by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. On Wednesday, Musk offered a veiled rebuttal to such accusations.

He remarked, "We do everything we can with rigorous benchtop testing, We're not cavalier about putting these devices into animals. Before we would even conceive about putting a device in an animal." We take great caution, and whether we implant a device into a sheep, pig, or monkey, we always want it to be confirmatory rather than exploratory.

When surgeons at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York successfully implanted Synchron's inch-and-a-half-long gadget into a patient with ALS in July, they beat Neuralink to market. The patient, who is no longer able to move or speak on their own, should be able to use the gadget to convert their thoughts into orders for the computer so that they can browse the internet and send text messages. In the same month, it was revealed that Musk had an affair with a Neuralink executive who is currently expecting his twins.

Despite receiving the FDA's Breakthrough Device Designation in July 2020, Neuralink is still attempting to secure FDA approval for its implant. By accelerating the development and regulatory testing of promising therapies and medical equipment, this program gives patients and caregivers more "timely access." The FDA had given such designation to 728 medical devices as of September 2022.

In 2021, the FDA updated its best practices recommendations for both clinical and nonclinical BCI testing. The FDA stated in its May advice that "the area of implanted BCI devices is moving fast from fundamental neuroscience discoveries to translational applications and market access." "Implanted BCI devices have the potential to aid individuals with severe disabilities by enhancing their capacity for interaction with their surroundings and, as a result, resulting in new independence in everyday activities."

During the 2021 livestream event, Musk compared Neuralink's product to a Fitbit in your head and said it had small wires. The system depends on up to 1,024, 5-micron diameter wires that are "stitched" into the grey matter of a patient to link with the nearby neurons, giving high-resolution sampling of the brain's electrical emissions and converting analog electrical impulses into digital computer code. least theoretically. Neuralink has only succeeded in getting a monkey to play Pong without a joystick thus far.

In a sense, Musk said during his opening remarks, "Your phone and your computer are extensions of yourself. We are all already cyborgs." He asserted that those tools severely restrict our capacity for communication. "The pace at which you can move your thumbs or speak into your phone is limited if you're communicating with a phone," the author says. He points out that a computer can communicate at "gigabits, terabits per second," yet this approach can only send "tens, maybe a hundred" bits of data each second.

He remarked, almost incredulously, "This is the core restriction that I think we need to solve to lessen the long-term risk of artificial intelligence."

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