Yesterday, the founder of SpaceX and Tesla took to X to reveal that Neuralink had implanted its first chip in a human. While his tweet wasn’t too descriptive – suspiciously so if you’re one to panic about these dystopian-esque scenarios – he told his 170.5 million followers that the human is “recovering well” and initial results are showing “promising neuron spike detection [sic]”. For those of you rightly wondering WTF a Neuralink chip is, it’s described by those behind it as a “generalized brain interface to restore autonomy to those with unmet medical needs”. While the main aim is allowing those with paralysis of all four limbs to control devices with their thoughts, Musk also has grand plans of the chip being used to treat things like obesity, autism, depression and schizophrenia.
That’s all well and good if it actually happens. While the neuron spikes are, just as Musk put it himself, promising, the whole thing still sounds like an alternative prologue for 28 Days Later. But rest assured, Neuralink is all above aboard. Back in September of last year, an independent review board gave Neuralink the all clear to start human testing, which came off the back of the chip being successfully employed in a macaque monkey. In April of 2021, Neuralink even released a video of the monkey – named Pager – playing a game of Pong using the device.
Musk, does, however, have a history of proceeding without caution. Just yesterday it was revealed that his car company Tesla had to recall nearly 200,000 vehicles because of a rearview mirror issue, and in the world of Neuralink, its proved to be even more tumultuous. Prior to getting approval, Neuralink’s application for human testing was rejected by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, with the agency having major safety concerns around tiny wires from the implant migrating into other parts of the brain. Neuralink also made headlines back in December of 2022 when it was reported that a huge 1,500 animals had died as a result of their studies, a number that was described as higher than it needs to be by current and former employees of the company. And making matters even fishier is a since deleted tweet from Musk that stated “No monkey has died as a result of a Neuralink implant [sic]”.
It’s even chaos at X, with Musk hiring 100 content moderators in the wake of a fiasco involving some AI-generated explicit pictures of singer Taylor Swift… Still, there’s no need to panic. At least not yet, anyway. Neuralink’s human trials will go on for six years, and there won’t be chips available to the average consumer for a long time after that.