Neuralink CEO Elon Musk expects human trials within six months |  Engadget

Neuralink CEO Elon Musk expects human trials within six months | Engadget

IIt’s been six years since Tesla, SpaceX (and now Twitter) CEO Elon Musk co-founded Brain Control Interfaces (BCI) startup Neuralink. It’s been three years since the company first demonstrated its “sewing machine-like” implant robot, two years since the company put its technology in the heads of pigs – and just over 19 months since they did the same for primates, an effort that reportedly killed 15 of the 23 test subjects. After a month-long delay in October, Neuralink hosted its third “show and tell” event on Wednesday where CEO Elon Musk announced, “We believe that in about six months we should be able to install a Neuralink in a human.”

Neuralink had some tumultuous times during the previous April 2021 status update: the company’s co-founder, Max Hodak, quietly resigned right after that event, although he said he was still a “great cheerleader” from Neuralink’s hit. That show of confidence was then shattered last August after Musk reportedly approached Neuralink’s main rival, Synchron, as an investment opportunity.

Earlier in February, Neuralink confirmed that monkeys died while testing prototypes of its BCI implants at the University of California, Davis Primate Center, but dismissed accusations of animal cruelty from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Musk indirectly responded to those accusations on Wednesday.

“Before we even think about putting a device in an animal, we go out of our way with rigorous bench testing. We’re not good at putting these devices in animals,” he said. “We are extremely careful and we always want the device, every time we implant – whether in a sheep, a pig or a monkey – to be a confirmation and not an exploration.”

In July, Synchron beat Neuralink to market when doctors at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City successfully installed the company’s inch-and-a-half-long device in a person living with ALS. The patient, who has lost his ability to move around and communicate independently, should be able to surf the web and send text messages using the device to translate his thoughts into computer commands. That same month, an affair between Musk and a Neuralink executive, who is now pregnant with his twins, also came to light.

Neuralink is still working to gain FDA approval for its implant, although the company received Breakthrough Device Designation from the agency in July 2020. The program gives patients and caregivers “faster access ” to promising treatments and medical devices by accelerating their development and regulation. test. As of September 2022, the FDA has granted this designation to 728 medical devices.

The FDA also updated its best practice guidelines for clinical and non-clinical BCI testing in 2021. “The field of implanted BCI devices is rapidly advancing from fundamental neuroscience discoveries to translational applications and market access,” the agency said in its May guidelines. “Implanted BCI devices have the potential to provide benefits to people with severe disabilities by increasing their ability to interact with their environment and, therefore, providing them with new independence in everyday life.”

“In many ways, it’s like a Fitbit in your skull, with tiny wires,” Musk said of Neuralink’s device at the 2021 livestream event. The device relies on as many as 1,024 5-micron diameter wires “sewn” into a patient’s gray matter to form connections with surrounding neurons, providing high-resolution sampling of the brain’s electrical emissions and translating between analog electrical impulses and the digital computer code. Theoretically, at least. So far, all Neuralink has accomplished is getting a monkey to play Pong without a joystick.

“We’re all already cyborgs in some way,” Musk joked during his opening remarks, “in that your phone and your computer are extensions of yourself.” However, these devices severely limit our ability to communicate, he argued. “If you’re interacting with a phone, it’s limited by how fast you can move your thumbs or how fast you can talk into your phone.” He notes that this method can only transmit “tens, maybe hundreds” of bits of data per second whereas “a computer can communicate at, you know, gigabits, terabits per second”.

“That’s the fundamental boundary that I think we need to address to mitigate the long-term risk of artificial intelligence,” he said credulously.

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