Elon Musk’s Neuralink Hits a Snag: First Human Implantee Faces Technical Glitches

May 10, 2024
2 mins read

There is no doubt that one of the most visionary entrepreneurs of our time is Elon Musk. Not only is he behind innovative projects like SpaceX and Tesla, but he has also extended his ambition to the field of neurotechnology with Neuralink. Founded with the goal of merging the human mind with artificial intelligence, Neuralink has been in the spotlight since its inception.

In January this year, Neuralink achieved a significant milestone by conducting the first test of its controversial brain implant in a human. The test subject, Noland Arbaugh, became the center of attention when Elon Musk shared a video on his Twitter account showing him playing video games and chess using only his mind. Arbaugh, who became quadriplegic in 2016 during a diving accident at just 22 years old, has been gradually achieving milestones such as playing Mario Kart or Civilization I, solely with his mind.

However, not everything has been perfect. Recent days have seen Neuralink confirm that there have been technical problems with the implant. Some of the electrode threads inserted into brain tissue retracted after surgery, negatively affecting its operation. This setback raised questions about the long-term viability of this technology and concerns about patient safety. In response, Neuralink has implemented corrective measures, including software adjustments to improve the device’s sensitivity to neural signals.

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Despite these issues, Neuralink continues to advance its mission to improve the interface between the human brain and machines. The company has announced plans to enhance the functionality of the implant, including introducing text and cursor control, with the long-term vision of expanding its application to physical world devices, such as robotic arms and wheelchairs.

Telepathy is the name of the chip that Neuralink implanted in a human brain. Neurosurgery experts have noted that the mobility of the human brain presents unique challenges, compared to animal models used in previous tests. These technical issues underscore the complexity of working within the human brain and the need to adapt to its environment.

Criticism from the scientific community towards Neuralink is quite recurrent. There are many research groups that have developed implants similar to Neuralink and they have not been given as much importance. There are also criticisms of the company’s true goal. Right now, the plan is to use the implant with quadriplegic people, like Arbaugh. However, what they are looking for is that in the future we live in a reality similar to Black Mirror, where people who can afford it will be capable of performing tasks such as storing their memories or controlling gadgets with their mind.

Elon Musk plans to place the implant in another 10 people. Either way, the main reason for the criticism received by Neuralink is the potential lack of safety of the implant. Fired scientists from the company have explained that the treatment of laboratory animals was not the best and that many of them died for reasons different from those declared by Neuralink. Several cases of infections have been made known, which concern many specialists in the field. However, Neuralink insists that everything is fine. In fact, they plan to place the implant in another 10 people for the rest of the year. The controversy will continue to exist, especially now that it seems that some wires have shifted out of place. It’s not a serious inconvenience, but the precedents are enough to worry many of its detractors.

Govind Tekale

Embarking on a new journey post-retirement, Govind, once a dedicated teacher, has transformed his enduring passion for current affairs and general knowledge into a conduit for expression through writing. His historical love affair with reading, which borders on addiction, has evolved into a medium to articulate his thoughts and disseminate vital information. Govind pens down his insights on a myriad of crucial topics, including the environment, wildlife, energy, sustainability, and health, weaving through every aspect that is quintessential for both our existence and that of our planet. His writings not only mirror his profound understanding and curiosity but also serve as a valuable resource, offering a deep dive into issues that are critical to our collective future and well-being.

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