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Neuralink: Elon Musk’s new frontier neuroscience

The ambitious venture, Neuralink, and the ethical dilemmas it presents
Danny D’Cruze
Business Today, November 8, 2023

Elon Musk’s next big project is probably something that you have never heard of, Neuralink. In 2016, Elon Musk and a team of investors composed mainly of engineers and neuroscientists invested over $150 million into a company that became known as Neuralink. The company’s main goal was to create small computer chip-like devices that could help treat brain diseases; it now seeks to enhance human capabilities.

However, despite its seemingly good intentions, Neuralink has many experts concerned due to the possible harm or irreversible damage that could be caused to a patient during experimentation. Additionally, many people are concerned with the legal and ethical components associated with the project. Despite the criticism and concerns, the Neuralink project is proceeding forward and received FDA approval to clinically test on humans in May 2023, even though it was rejected eight months earlier.

During earlier trials on animals, a monkey displayed its ability to play a video game with the device, but not all experiments that took place on animals went smoothly. The trials reportedly killed upwards of 1,500 animals over years of testing. While this is concerning for animal rights activists or potential Neuralink recipients, any experiment run on a human for installing an invasive device would be expected to be relatively safe because of the regulatory surgical hurdles.

To better understand why the government has not intervened more in the project, The Carroll News reached out to Dr. Elizabeth Stiles, a professor of Political Science at John Carroll University. Stiles said, “The United States government could be hesitant to intervene and regulate the project because it could stifle the project’s innovation.” Stiles stressed that “However, as the project matures it may become necessary for government intervention to ensure that the proper protocols are being followed involving privacy and safety.”

On Jan. 29, 2024, Musk announced that the company had successfully implanted a Neuralink device in a patient’s brain and that the patient was recovering. Three weeks later, on Feb. 20, 2024, Musk claimed that the first human trial participant was able to control a computer mouse through thought without physically touching the mouse, but he offered few details and little evidence to support the claim. If the claim is true, it is certainly incredible and should make many wonder what is next.

Musk believes that his technology has many capabilities including creating a technological telepathy between two individuals to allow them to communicate without speaking to each other. Also, Musk believes restoring sight to those who are blind and allowing those who are paralyzed to regain movement will be its legacy. While this may seem fantastical, it is too early in the project to know for sure whether or not these things are achievable.

When asked what the long-term implications of Neuralink could be, Stiles said “It is hard to grasp what the future holds for something so new and the short-term effects of the technology could even be hard to predict because no one knows outside of the company how effective the experiments have been.” 

However, one thing is certain: Neuralink will need much more testing and research before ever coming close to the public market. 

While Elon Musk’s venture into the realm of neuroscience may seem scary and extremely controversial, it does represent yet another advancement in AI technology and more need for caution especially concerning physical health. Nevertheless, if Neuralink is managed ethically and properly, it may provide tremendous outcomes to those with previously incurable ailments. Besides, it could be extremely beneficial to have an investor in the world of health care with the financial capital that Elon possesses.

View Comments (3)

Comments (3)

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  • A

    AMar 9, 2024 at 12:21 pm

    When Elon, his parents, all his wives, and his children are implanted, let me know. Only then

  • S

    Shanika StevensMar 2, 2024 at 10:31 pm

    Elon is being too closed mouth about this technology and needs to stop feeding his ego.

    • M

      MiaMar 4, 2024 at 12:48 pm

      Aspirations, plans, commitment and discipline to accomplish great things is were it all starts. Ego can be an important part of it too.