Key facts about Neuralink, Musk's cyborg gamble

Key facts about Neuralink, Musk's cyborg gamble

Elon Musk standing next to a surgical robot during a Neuralink presentation in 2020
Elon Musk standing next to a surgical robot during a Neuralink presentation in 2020. Photo: - / Neuralink/AFP
Source: AFP

PAY ATTENTION: Enjoy reading our stories? Join's Telegram channel for more!

Neuralink, Elon Musk's brain-implant company, has won US approval to test on humans. Here is what to know about the multi-billionaire's dream project to enable the human brain to communicate directly with computers.

Cyborg future?

Neuralink is a neurotechnology company co-founded by Musk along with a team of scientists and engineers in 2016 to build direct communication channels between the brain and computers.

The aim is to supercharge human capabilities, treat neurological disorders like ALS or Parkinson's, and ultimately achieve a symbiotic relationship between humans and artificial intelligence.

Neuralink's technology would mainly work through an implant called the "Link" -- a device about the size of five stacked coins that would be placed inside the human brain through invasive surgery.

The hardware would harbor electrodes capable of both recording neural activity and stimulating specific regions of the brain.

Read also

OpenAI chief seeks to calm fears on job losses

PAY ATTENTION: Click “See First” under the “Following” tab to see News on your News Feed!

A Neuralink disk implant held by Elon Musk
A Neuralink disk implant held by Elon Musk. Photo: - / Neuralink/AFP
Source: AFP

Researchers hope the implant's powers will also treat paralysis, spinal cord injuries and brain disorders.

It could also potentially blur the line between human consciousness and computing, an idea that has long excited technologists, while feeding nightmares of a dystopian future taken over by cyborgs.

Last year, 78 percent of US adults surveyed by Pew Research said they probably or definitely would not want a computer chip implanted in their brain to process information faster.

Many competitors

According to data company Pitchbook, California-based Neuralink has more than 400 employees and has raised at least $363 million.

Though he wins most of the headlines, Musk is hardly alone in trying to make advances in the field, which is officially known as brain-machine or brain-computer interface research.

Hit with delays, the tycoon had reportedly reached out to join forces with implant developer Synchron about a potential investment. Its implant version does not require cutting into the skull to install it, unlike Neuralink's Link.

Read also

Musk's Neuralink says cleared for human test of brain implants

The Australia-based Synchron implanted its first device in a US patient in July 2022.

Another implant project, but designed for research purposes, is from company Blackrock Neurotech and has also received FDA approval for human testing.

A Neuralink co-founder has also split from Musk and raised venture capital for his own project at a startup called Science.

Other companies seeking to make a play in the sector include BrainCo, Kernel and CTRL-Labs, now a part of Meta's virtual reality division.

Animal testing

The FDA approval for human testing comes at a great relief for Neuralink which until now had been testing its implants in monkeys and other animals.

Reuters reported in December that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) had opened an investigation into potential violations of the Animal Welfare Act at Neuralink.

The report estimated that Neuralink killed about 1,500 animals, including more than 280 sheep, pigs and monkeys for research since 2018.

Read also

AI chip giant Nvidia nears trillion dollar valuation

The USDA refused to confirm or deny the report to AFP at the time.

Arch rival Synchron reportedly killed only about 80 sheep as part of its research, according to documents seen by Reuters.

New feature: Сheck out news that is picked for YOU ➡️ click on “Recommended for you” and enjoy!

Source: AFP

AFP avatar

AFP AFP text, photo, graphic, audio or video material shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium. AFP news material may not be stored in whole or in part in a computer or otherwise except for personal and non-commercial use. AFP will not be held liable for any delays, inaccuracies, errors or omissions in any AFP news material or in transmission or delivery of all or any part thereof or for any damages whatsoever. As a newswire service, AFP does not obtain releases from subjects, individuals, groups or entities contained in its photographs, videos, graphics or quoted in its texts. Further, no clearance is obtained from the owners of any trademarks or copyrighted materials whose marks and materials are included in AFP material. Therefore you will be solely responsible for obtaining any and all necessary releases from whatever individuals and/or entities necessary for any uses of AFP material.

Online view pixel