Elon Musk: billionaire, raver, literal space cadet. And now one step further in putting ‘brain chips’ into all of our skulls. Sound appealing? Nah, not to me either.
But the US FDA (Food and Drink Administration) seems to disagree, as they’ve approved Musk’s company, Neuralink, to conduct its first human clinical studies for the brain chips that the company hopes will treat health issues such as paralysis and blindness, and help disabled people use technology.
In a tweet, Neuralink shared: “We are excited to share that we have received the FDA’s approval to launch our first-in-human clinical study!
“This is the result of incredible work by the Neuralink team in close collaboration with the FDA and represents an important first step that will one day allow our technology to help many people.”
They also said that recruitment hasn’t started yet, but they’ll announce more information in due course.
What is Neuralink?
Elon Musk launched the company in July 2016, with plans to treat neurological disorders by developing ‘neural-interface technology’ (i.e. “brain chips!”) that would help the brain link with areas of the body affected by disability.
For instance, giving blind people the power of sight, or helping people walk again.
The chips have attracted controversy due to ethical concerns about whether we should put ‘chips’ into our brains at all, as well as animal welfare violations.
Neuralink has previously been testing the chips on pigs and monkeys, with a total of 1,500 animals dying over the course of four years due to testing.
How would the brain chips work?
The Neuralink V0.09 brain implant will be about the size of a coin and attached to the person’s skull. From there, tiny wires – 20 times thinner than human hair – will spread out across the brain, where they’re able to monitor brain activity and stimulate the brain electrically.
The data can also be wirelessly transferred to a computer so that it can be researched.
This is the second time Neuralink has applied for FDA approval. The last time, they were rejected due to concerns about the lithium battery and the potential of the wires migrating around the brain.
Musk has said that the procedure wouldn’t require the patient to be put under, can be done in just 30 minutes, and you’ll be able to return home the same day. Sounds dubious – my nail appointment isn’t even as quick as that!
From there, it’s thought that paralysed people will be able to regain mobility.
Musk has also discussed how the chips could allow you to save memories and replay them back, like a horrifying version of TikTok inside your own brain.
’You could basically store your memories as a backup and restore the memories. You could potentially download them into a new body or into a robot body”, he said.
Interested? Well, you’d better get saving. The chip is said to cost between $1000-$3000. It’s not clear whether it’d be available on the NHS for those who it can help, but time will tell. Watch this space!