Key facts about Neuralink, Musk’s automated gambling

Neuralink, Elon Musk’s brain implant company, has won US approval for human testing. Here’s what you need to know about the Billionaire’s Dream project to enable the human brain to communicate directly with computers.

Cyborg future?

Neuralink is a neurotechnology company that Musk co-founded with a team of scientists and engineers in 2016 to build direct communication channels between the brain and computers.

The goal is to augment human capabilities, treat neurological disorders such as ALS or Parkinson’s disease, and eventually achieve a symbiotic relationship between humans and artificial intelligence.

Essentially, Neuralink’s technology will work through an implant called the “Link” – a device the size of five stacked coins that is placed inside the human brain through invasive surgery.

Read also | Elon Musk’s Neuralink researched material shipments

The device will contain electrodes capable of recording neural activity and stimulating specific areas of the brain.

Researchers hope the implant’s powers could also treat paralysis, spinal cord injuries, and brain disorders.

It can also blur the line between human consciousness and computing, an idea that has long intrigued technologists, while fueling nightmares of a dystopian future controlled by cyborgs.

Last year, 78% of American adults surveyed by Pew Research said they may or certainly don’t want a computer chip implanted in their brains to process information faster.

many competitors

According to data company Pitchbook, California-based Neuralink has more than 400 employees and has raised at least $363 million.

Despite winning most of the headlines, Musk is not alone in trying to make headway in the field, which is formally known as brain-machine interface research or computer interface.

Read also | Musk says Neuralink will enable people with paralysis to use a smartphone with their mind

After the delay, the billionaire has reportedly reached out to implant developer Synchron about a potential investment. The implant version does not require a cut in the skull to install it, unlike the Neuralink link.

Synchron, based in Australia, implanted its first device in an American patient in July 2022.

Another implant project, but designed for research purposes, is from Blackrock Neurotech and has also received FDA approval for human testing.

One of the founders of Neuralink also broke with Musk and raised venture capital for his own venture in a startup called Science.

Other companies seeking to play a role in this sector include BrainCo, Kernel, and CTRL-Labs, now part of Meta’s virtual reality division.

Animal experiments

The FDA’s approval of human testing comes as a huge relief for Neuralink, which until now had been testing its implants in monkeys and other animals.

Read also | Elon Musk’s Neuralink puts computer chips in the brains of animals

Reuters reported in December that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) had opened an investigation into possible violations of the Animal Welfare Act at Neuralink.

The report estimated that Neuralink has killed about 1,500 animals, including more than 280 sheep, pigs and monkeys, for research since 2018.

The USDA refused to confirm or deny the AFP report at the time.

Arch’s competitor, Synchron, has reportedly killed only about 80 sheep as part of its research, according to documents seen by Reuters.

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