FDA Allows Musk to Test Brain Chips in Humans

    FDA Allows Musk to Test Brain Chips in Humans
    Last updated May 26, 2023
    Image credit: Wikimedia Commons


    • On Thursday, Elon Musk's brain chip firm Neuralink said the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has allowed it to start a "first-in-human clinical study" to test its brain implants.
    • The news follows the Tesla, SpaceX, and Twitter CEO’s November claim that Neuralink was about six months away from its first human trial and that he would implant one of its brain chips in his own head in the future.
    • Earlier this year, a Reuters report claimed the FDA had rejected Musk's bid to test brain chips in humans, citing safety risks, including the potential for the implant's wispy wires to drift to the other side of the brain.
    • Neuralink's coin-sized prototypes, which have already been tested in monkeys and pigs, are reportedly designed to interpret brain signals and relay information to devices like smartphones or computers via Bluetooth.
    • Musk claims Neuralink's brain chips can help paralyzed people walk again, cure neurological issues, and allow for "symbiosis with artificial intelligence."
    • The announcement, which hasn’t been confirmed by the FDA, comes after a proof-of-concept study published Wednesday revealed how a Dutch man paralyzed by chronic tetraplegia could stand and walk naturally with the help of brain and spinal cord implants.


    Narrative A

    Merging minds and super-powered computing is crucial if people wish to avoid being replaced by AI. If Neuralink can be a game-changer for people with disabilities, cure conditions such as autism and schizophrenia, and enable web browsing and telepathy, Musk's brain-computer interface shouldn't be dismissed.

    Narrative B

    The FDA's alleged approval of this non-therapeutic research raises several ethical issues. Though it insists "safety, accessibility, and reliability" are its priorities, Neuralink has been involved in botched animal experiments and has already been the subject of federal probes, including one over transporting dangerous pathogens on chips removed from monkey brains in an unsafe manner.

    Narrative C

    Neuralink isn't alone in trying to use brain-computer interfaces to hack brain signals and transmit them directly to electronic devices. Multiple technologists have discussed a world where anyone could receive brain implants to achieve superintelligence. But the FDA must regulate the rising tide of brain chip companies that may violate not only ethical standards but also conflict-of-interest and security regulations.

    Nerd narrative

    There is a 50% chance that the FDA will grant Neuralink permission to sell and implant a brain-machine interface device into general consumers by September 2036, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

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