- Elon Musk’s neurotechnology company, Neuralink, has pulled back the veil on its ambitions to implant chips in people’s brains.
- During a Q&A session at a live presentation on Tuesday, Musk surprised his Neuralink colleagues by announcing that the firm had tested its technology on monkeys with some success.
- Musk said “a monkey has been able to control a computer with its brain,” though he did not elaborate further on what this involved.
- Neuralink’s president, Max Hodak, said that he wished the company didn’t have to experiment on animals but that it’s a necessary “step in the process.”
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Elon Musk took his colleagues by surprise with an unplanned announcement at a presentation by his secretive neurotechnology company, Neuralink, on Tuesday.
Musk cofounded Neuralink in 2016. Its goal is to create a chip that could enable a “brain-computer interface.” And according to Musk, the company has already had some success – with monkeys.
During the 90-minute event, Musk and various senior staffers at Neuralink presented the company’s ambition to design a chip capable of being implanted in the human brain that could receive and transmit signals to the organ.
The near-term goal would be to treat various serious brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, although ultimately Musk’s ambition is to achieve “symbiosis with artificial intelligence.”
The current design takes the form of a chip implanted behind the ear, connected to electrode threads about one quarter the width of a human hair, which are threaded into the brain, where they can stimulate the neurons or nerve cells.
Responding to a question about whether the company had conducted any animal testing, Musk replied that it had carried out tests on rats and monkeys, adding that the company’s work with monkeys had been done in conjunction with the University of California. “The results have been very positive,” Musk said.
Neuralink’s senior scientist Philip Sabes said some of the results would be available in a paper “soon,” but Musk cut across: “A monkey has been able to control a computer with its brain, just FYI.” He did not elaborate as to exactly how said monkey had controlled the computer.
“I didn’t realise we were running that result today, but there it goes,” Neuralink’s president, Max Hodak, said, laughing. “The monkey’s going to come out of the bag,” Musk replied.
Both Musk and Hodak seemed cognisant of the sensitive nature of animal testing. “We wish that we didn’t have to work with animals – we just wish that wasn’t a step in the process, but it is,” Hodak said. Musk also said the company hoped to start human testing before the end of next year.
You can watch Elon Musk’s full Neuralink presentation here: