A lot of people are interested in getting brain implants from Neuralink, as mentioned in a recent report by Bloomberg, who wrote a book about Elon Musk.
Neuralink, a company founded by Elon Musk, hasn’t put its brain implant into a person yet. But they plan to do surgeries on 11 people next year and over 22,000 people by 2030, according to report. He said he visited the company’s buildings 10 times over three years.
Neuralink’s Path to Human Brain Implant Trials
Earlier this year, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave Neuralink approval to start testing its brain implant on people. Musk has compared this device to a “Fitbit in your head.” Before, the FDA had said no to Neuralink’s request for human testing in March because of safety concerns, such as the wires moving in a person’s head or the chip getting too hot.
In September, the company started looking for participants for its very first human test. Neuralink mentioned in a blog post that they were searching for individuals with paralysis in all four limbs due to spinal cord injuries or ALS.
The company’s ultimate goal is to create a device that connects humans and machines, allowing people to send messages or play games using just their thoughts. However, their initial focus is on assisting people with neurological conditions.
According to report, the author of the 2015 biography “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future,” despite receiving a lot of interest from thousands of potential patients, the company is still searching for its first volunteer or someone who is willing to have part of their skull removed by a surgeon so that a large robot can insert a set of electrodes and very thin wires into their brain.
Challenges in Neuralink’s Brain Implant Technology
According to Elon Musk’s biographer, the surgery involves a “few hours” for the surgeon to remove part of the skull, and then it takes roughly 25 minutes for the robot to put in the device, including its extremely slim set of around 64 threads. This device will take the place of the part of the skull that was removed. Report mentioned that these threads are incredibly thin, measuring about 1/14th the width of a single human hair strand.
Neuralink has conducted 155 implantation surgeries using the robot on various animals for testing, including pigs and monkeys, as mentioned by report. However, in Musk’s typical style, the billionaire keeps pushing for the robot to work faster and for the surgery to be done without any human assistance.
A spokesperson from Neuralink did not provide a comment before the publication of the report.
The biographer mentioned that Musk has said the need to compete with other brain-computer startups like Synchron and Onward, which have already started testing their devices on humans.
Musk expressed, “They are currently outperforming us,” after Synchron successfully implanted its first device in a US patient in July 2022. (In December 2021, one of Synchron’s patients in Australia became the first person to send a tweet using only their thoughts.)
Neuralink’s Pursuit of AI-Linked Brain Tech
The billionaire has also stated that Neuralink must accelerate its progress urgently, as if there’s a critical need to keep up with the advancement of AI and the potential emergence of AI systems that may not be friendly to humans, as the report pointed out.
However, while Musk’s intense sense of urgency may be effective at companies like Tesla or SpaceX, where he has implemented rapid work and even slept at the factory to meet deadlines, at least one executive at Neuralink is taking a more cautious approach.
“We can’t blow up the first three. That’s not an option here,” Shivon Zilis, Neuralink’s director of special projects and the mother of two of Musk’s children, told Vance in a reference to SpaceX’s first three rockets, which exploded.
Neuralink, founded by Elon Musk in 2016, is advancing towards human brain implants. They plan to help those with neurological conditions by creating a brain-machine interface. While Musk stresses urgency due to AI’s progress, some approach with caution. The company seeks its first human volunteer for groundbreaking surgery, aiming to merge humans and machines.