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Neuralink: Elon Musk’s startup will test its brain implants on humans

Startup Neuralink, one of Elon Musk’s companies, announced on Twitter Thursday that it has received approval from US health authorities to test its connected brain implants in humans.

“This is an important first step that will one day allow our technology to help many people,” the California-based company said, adding that “the clinical trial kit is not yet open.”

“Now we are confident that the Neuralink device is ready for humans, so the timing is subject to the FDA approval process,” US Drug Agency Elon Musk said on Twitter in late November, a month after buying the social network. The FDA did not immediately respond to AFP’s request.

“Symbiosis with artificial intelligence”

Neuralink is developing connected brain implant devices to communicate directly with computers through thought. They should be used primarily to help people who are paralyzed or suffer from neurological diseases.

The startup then wants to make these implants safe and reliable enough that they can be used as elective (comfort) surgery – then people could pay several thousand dollars to equip their brains with computer power.

For Elon Musk, these chips should allow humanity to achieve “symbiosis with artificial intelligence (AI)”, in his words, delivered in 2020 at the company’s annual conference. The billionaire fears that artificial intelligence systems will overtake humans and one day take control.

In March, he founded X.AI, a new company specializing in this field, which will likely compete with OpenAI, the company that developed ChatGPT, a successful generative AI program capable of interacting with people and creating all kinds of texts on demand.

Musk wants to go faster

In July 2019, he estimated that Neuralink would be able to conduct its first human trials in 2020. So far, prototypes the size of a small coin have been implanted in animal skulls. Thus, some monkeys can “play” video games or “type” words on the screen simply by following the movement of the cursor on the screen with their eyes.

At the end of November, the startup also summed up its latest achievements in the design of a surgical robot and the development of other implants for installation in the spinal cord or eyes to restore mobility or vision.

In 2022, Elon Musk encouraged Neuralink employees to work faster. “We are all going to die before anything useful happens,” he told them at a meeting last year, Bloomberg news agency reported.

Other companies are working to control computers with thought, such as Synchron, which announced in July 2022 that it had implanted the first brain-machine interface in the US. “We are creating technology that can directly broadcast the thoughts of people who have lost the ability to move or speak due to illness or injury,” said Thomas Oxley, founder and CEO of the startup, in a video on his website. Several patients are already testing an implant that is inserted into their blood vessels so they can write emails or surf the internet using their eyes and brain.

Source: Le Parisien

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