Is Elon Musk’s project serious?

Neuralink has never been closer to conducting first human trials. In an event on Thursday, December 1, Elon Musk took the development of his company that specializes in interfaces that connect the brain to computers. Among the new promises at stake: according to the billionaire, Neuralink may implant one of his devices on one’s mind for the next six monthswhich has only conducted animal tests so far.

As is customary with Elon Musk, these announcements should be taken with a grain of salt. The eccentric entrepreneur is used to risky predictions when it comes to his business. In July 2019, he set the horizon for his first human trials in 2020. A goal that was subsequently postponed to 2022. And now to 2023. The entrepreneur will only wait for the approval of the administration of Food and Medicine, the police of medical devices in the United States, to which Neuralink sent all the necessary documents.

How Neuralink Works

Neuralink’s brain implants are artificial intelligence microchips that slide under the skin with the aim of establishing a direct interface between a brain and a machine. The size of a 2 euro coin, these implants, which contain micro-wires connected to electrodes, are intended to treat various neurological disorders, such as paralysis, to allow people suffering in these pathologies to control devices through thought. They can allow, for example, a paraplegic to walk again thanks to an exoskeleton, or to write a text message without having to type it on his phone.

According to Neuralink, the robotic system developed by the company is capable of establishing approximately sixty brain connections within fifteen minutes. “It’s like replacing a piece of your brain with a connected watch,” Elon Musk summed up on Wednesday, saying that he is ready to implant the device in his head or in one of his children in the future. .

So far, Neuralink’s connected brain implants have only been implanted in the skulls of animals. The latest experiment showed a monkey playing video games with thoughts. A few months earlier, a first autonomous and functional implant was placed in the brain of a pig. Neuralink showed a new video on Wednesday showing monkeys typing sentences telepathically. Elon Musk also revealed some new potential uses for his implants, especially to restore sight to blind people or mobility to paralyzed people.

Doubts about the Neuralink “revolution”.

These announcements were again met with some skepticism by observers. In addition to a series of delays to the billionaire’s ambitious promises, serious doubts surround Neuralink’s ability to deliver its product. The company’s teams still do not provide concrete scientific proof of their progress. Many scientists believe that Elon Musk has overestimated the achievements of Neuralink, who is also not the only player working in this branch of research. The company Synchron, for example, announced in July that it had implemented the first brain-machine interface in the United States.

Launched in 2016, the company Neuralink will also be overcome by major tensions. American media Fortune explained at the beginning of the year that many employees left the company for the competition, annoyed by the frantic pace of work and problematic management. According to the Bloomberg agency, Elon Musk would have expressed his concerns internally, urging his employees to “do anything useful” before “everything is dead”. Neuralink also faces opposition from animal rights groups that accuse it of abusing monkeys or pigs amid the company’s experiments. A federal complaint was filed earlier this year.

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