Elon Musk’s tech startup Neuralink has commenced human clinical trials, with the first human to receive an implant confirmed by the Tech mogul.
Neuralink aims to merge human cognition with artificial intelligence, potentially transforming how we interact with technology and each other.
Elon Musk shared the Neuralink update on X, “The first human received an implant from @Neuralink yesterday and is recovering well. Initial results show promising neuron spike detection”. There has not been any official announcement from Neuralink directly.
According to the Neuralink website, the study involves placing an implant in the part of the brain that plans movements. The device interprets a person’s neural activity without requiring physical movement.
As well as helping manage neurological disorders, Neuralink is also aimed at augmenting human intelligence, potentially allowing people to directly interface with digital platforms and AI systems.
Blindsight is another trial that Musk’s company is working on.
Neuralink appears to be actively recruiting for current and future Neuralink trials . The website states: “This research will be the first of its kind to be performed in people and may help us find safer, more effective ways to implant and use our BCI to potentially restore and enhance computer control and other capabilities. If you have limited or no ability to use both hands due to cervical spinal cord injury or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) you may qualify.”
One of the most immediate applications of Neuralink’s technology is in the field of medicine. The BMIs developed by Neuralink could provide groundbreaking treatments for a range of neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, and even paralysis, according to the platform.
“The PRIME Study is being conducted under the investigational device exemption (IDE) awarded by the FDA in May 2023 and represents an important step in our mission to create a generalized brain interface to restore autonomy to those with unmet medical needs”.
Follow-up Tweets from Musk shed further light on the goal of Neuralink: “It enables control of your phone or computer, and through them almost any device, just by thinking,” he wrote. “Initial users will be those who have lost the use of their limbs. Imagine if Stephen Hawking could communicate faster than a speed typist or auctioneer. That is the goal.” he added.
Response to Neuralink’s first human trial taking place has been mixed. The potential impact on the medical community is significant, with its groundbreaking potential to cure paralysis with implants. However, despite potential medical benefits, the fusion of a human with a robotically implanted brain-computer interface introduces broader questions concerning the status of humanoid or AI-enhanced humans. And as technology develops further, these questions will only become more pertinent.
One user commented on Elon Musk’s X post , asking the Tech mogul:
“Is it still classified as a human?
Does it still have human rights protections?
Is it now governed by a patent, rather than common law?”
Elon Musk outlined two potential use cases for Neuralink – to help people with paralysis control tech devices and to restore vision. While the initial focus is medical, Elon Musk spoke about other use cases on The Lex Friedman Podcast that resulted in controversy. Notably, Musk said that autism could be helped by his Neuralink device, which sparked outrage from many in the autistic community. A popular Reddit subreddit r/autism saw a number of users responding to Musk’s statement, with many expressing their distaste at the implication that autism is a disease that needs to be cured.
Beyond the immediate implications of Neuralink, the groundbreaking clinical trial has the potential to transform the way we view machine-human interaction. The immediate results of the Neuralink clinical trials remain to be seen, although Musk suggests that the early results were promising.