Billionaire Elon Musk takes his brain implant startup to the next level and starts clinical trials with humans. Musk’s company Neuralink previously had success in inserting their microchip into the brain of a macaque and a pig.
Musk believes that the artificial intelligence implants “will enable a person with paralysis to use a smartphone with their mind faster than someone who uses thumbs,” among other unforeseen innovations. But many scientists and ethicists believe that Neuralink can be potentially dangerous – not necessarily medically, but ethically.
Allen Coin, a graduate student at North Carolina State University, has been working on two recent research projects on the ethical status of brain implants that improve cognitive abilities, called brain-computer interfaces (BCI).
“When a patient receives a cochlear implant, it is a BCI that helps them hear. No one questions whether the patient’s hearing is authentic. Similarly, cognitive enhancement BCI devices are often presented as similar therapeutic tools that help patients. overcoming a challenge, ”Coin explained, pointing to potentially questionable uses of BCI technology disguised as notions of medical treatment.
“But we’re now hearing more about the potential of BCI devices to improve cognition in ways that go beyond therapeutic applications, but there is still limited debate about their authenticity,” Coin said.
“We believe this is because these BCI technologies are generally considered to be implants, meaning that the device would effectively be a permanent – or semi-permanent – change or even an extension of a person’s mind. “They are not substances that disappear. They are there to stay,” he warned ominously.
Musk’s Neuralink advertises job as director of clinical trials
Neuralink has announced an opening for a “clinical trial director” to lead the upcoming tests:
“As Director of Clinical Trials, you will work closely with some of the most innovative physicians and top engineers, as well as work with Neuralink’s first clinical trial participants. You will lead and help build the team responsible for enabling Neuralink’s clinical research activities and developing the regulatory interactions that come with a fast-paced and ever-evolving environment. “
Musk has openly defended Neuralink’s potential in public and to the press, and has often promoted the chip as a therapeutic entity capable of providing breakthroughs for the disabled. He even told the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council summit that the microchip could possibly help tetraplegic people walk as early as a year:
“We hope to have this in our first people, who will be people who have serious spinal cord injuries like tetraplegics, quadriplegics, next year, pending FDA approval,” Musk said.
“I think we have a chance with Neuralink to restore whole body functionality to someone who has a spinal cord injury. Neuralink works well in monkeys and we actually just do a lot of testing and just confirm that it is very safe and reliable , and that the Neuralink device can be safely removed. “