Billionaire Elon Musk’s brain-implant company, Neuralink, has finally, after several previous rejections, obtained permission from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to start conducting human trials.
“We are excited to share that we have received the FDA’s approval to launch our first-in-human clinical study! This is the result of incredible work by the Neuralink team in close collaboration with the FDA and represents an important first step that will one day allow our technology to help many people,” the company announced on Twitter Thursday.
“Recruitment is not yet open for our clinical trial. We’ll announce more information on this soon!” the company added.
We are excited to share that we have received the FDA’s approval to launch our first-in-human clinical study!
This is the result of incredible work by the Neuralink team in close collaboration with the FDA and represents an important first step that will one day allow our…
— Neuralink (@neuralink) May 25, 2023
According to Reuters, Musk’s hope is that his brain-implant technology could one day be used to “cure a range of conditions including obesity, autism, depression and schizophrenia as well as enabling web browsing and telepathy.”
As far as safety risks, Musk said last December that he’s so confident in Neuralink’s safety that he’d be willing to implant it in his children.
“I would say we’re at the point where at least, in my opinion, it would not be dangerous,” he said at an event, as reported by Insider.
“Neuralink’s brain chip has tiny wires embedded with electrodes that monitor brain activity and aim to electrically stimulate the brain. The company plans to embed the chip into a person’s skull with a robot Neuralink is also developing,” according to Insider.
The irony is that at the time Musk predicted human trials would begin in six months. But it’s been six months, and Neuralnk just got approval. Plus, Reuters notes that “[a]n at least four occasions since 2019, Musk predicted Neuralink would begin human trials.”
Regardless, now that the tech has been approved for human trials, many are excited for the future once more:
The is a groundbreaking day for the future of human consciousness and intelligence!
— Bradd Buff (@BraddBuff) May 26, 2023
I’ve been paralyzed for almost 18 years due to a spinal cord injury. At this point I’m willing to take any risks to recover back what I have lost
— Jesus (@CentenoSparky) May 26, 2023
This is a remarkable day that will be remembered for years to come.
Think of the many areas of application in rehabilitation medicine – how many stroke and injury patients would have improved quality of life!
— CaliNurse (@Sibir123yachka) May 26, 2023
Kudos to #Neuralink and their tireless dedication to innovation. FDA approval marks a pivotal first step in revolutionizing neurological healthcare. Eagerly awaiting the further details
— Rom (@SharoonRom) May 26, 2023
Congratulations, @neuralink, on this pivotal achievement! Your team’s hard work and dedication have brought us a step closer to unlocking unprecedented opportunities for human health and cognitive abilities.
— Brandon Christopher King (@brandonppr) May 25, 2023
This milestone marks the stage for a new era of human potential.
With Neuralink at the forefront, the boundaries of what is possible are being redefined, ushering in a world where the fusion of technology and humanity is no longer a distant dream but a tangible reality.
— Amit Misra (@amit6060) May 26, 2023
Thus far, Neuralink has only been tested on animals, though the results have been very promising. Two years ago, for instance, Neuralink posted a video to YouTube showing a monkey moving around an on-screen cursor using just his mind.
“Pager, a 9-year-old macaque monkey, had a Neuralink implanted about six weeks before the video was shot. … He was first taught to play video games with a joystick for a banana smoothie reward, delivered through a metal straw,” The Verge reported at the time.
“While he was doing this, the Neuralink device recorded information about which neurons were firing — learning, essentially, to predict hand movements by recording which regions fired. After learning the patterns, the joystick Pager used to play was disconnected from the computer. The monkey appear[ed] to go on playing the game using only his mind — playing a game of Pong with no joystick whatsoever.”
All this said, there are concerns. Some critics warn that the potential risks inherent in Neuralink may very well outweigh any potential benefits.
“Neuralink –if you are confined to a wheelchair or conscious and not functioning properly –it may be worth the risk. Otherwise is sounds rather dark and dystopian to me,” one critic succinctly put it in a tweet posted to Twitter.
“[H]acked, this could lead to privacy and security risks. Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to welcome Neuralink to our future is a complex one. There are both potential benefits and risks to consider. It is important to weigh these factors carefully when making a decision,” one critic added.
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