Key facts about Neuralink, Elon Musk’s cyborg gamble

Key facts about Neuralink, Elon Musk’s cyborg gamble 

Neuralink Elon Musk’s brain-implant company Neuralink has received US approval to conduct trials on humans. See here to learn about the multi-billionaire’s dream project to enable the human brain to communicate directly with computers.

Cyborg future?

Neuralink is a neurotechnology company co-founded by Musk with a team of scientists and engineers in 2016 to create a direct communication channel between brain and computer. 

It aims to supercharge human capabilities, treat neurological disorders such as ALS or Parkinson’s, and ultimately achieve a symbiotic relationship between humans and artificial intelligence.  

Key facts about Neuralink, Elon Musk's cyborg gamble
Key facts about Neuralink, Elon Musk’s cyborg gamble

The hardware would give off electrodes capable of recording neural activity and stimulating specific areas of the brain. 

The researchers hope that the implant’s power will also treat paralysis, spinal cord injuries and brain disorders. 

blur the line between human consciousness and computing, an idea that has long excited technologists while feeding nightmares of a dystopian future taken over by cyborgs. 

Last year, 78 percent of American adults surveyed by Pew Research said they would probably or definitely not want a computer chip implanted in their brain to process information faster. 

Many competitors

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

Although he wins most of the headlines, Musk is hardly alone in trying to make progress in the field, officially known as brain-machine or brain-computer interface research.  

Key facts about Neuralink, Elon Musk's cyborg gamble
Key facts about Neuralink, Elon Musk’s cyborg gamble

Hit with delays, the tycoon had reportedly reached out to join forces with implant developer Synchron regarding a possible investment. Unlike Neuralink’s Link, its implant version doesn’t require a cut into the skull to install it. 

Australia-based Synchron will implant its first device in a US patient in July 2022.

Another implant project, but designed for research purposes, is from the company BlackRock Neurotech and has also received FDA approval for human trials. 

A Neuralink co-founder has also split from Musk and raised venture capital for his project in a startup called Vigyan. 

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

Animal testing 

The FDA’s approval for human testing is a major relief for Neuralink, which until now had been testing its implant in monkeys and other animals. 

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

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

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

Arch rival Synchrony killed just 80 sheep as part of its research, according to documents seen by Reuters. 

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