What is Neuralink?


Reese Bower and Gavin Billcliff

In July of 2016, founder of Tesla and SpaceX, Elon Musk, co-founded Neuralink with Max Hodak, founder of Science Corp, a company focused on brain interface development. The founders and their team had the goal of, “developing a device that would be implanted in the human brain and connect to a computer, allowing the computer to translate human thoughts into physical action.” Hodak has since left the company, as of April, 2021. Former employees of the company explained that, eventually, due to Musk’s “ambitious timelines” and “busy schedule caring for his other companies,” their relationship became strained. Elon Musk has assumed the CEO position, and made incredible progress with the company.

Musk has used trials on monkeys to further develop his technology. Most recently, on December 2nd, the Neuralink YouTube channel uploaded a video showcasing prototypes of the device, as well as another video of a monkey typing using its implant. Activists have expressed concerns that the test subjects are being harmed during these experiments, but Musk has assured them that they are not harmed in any way, “The monkeys actually enjoy doing the demos, as they are rewarded with banana smoothies and other fruits.” On the YouTube channel, you can see one of the subjects, Sake the monkey, climbing up on his own, and sucking on a metal feeding tube while performing the demo. So, with successful experiments on animals, what is next for Neuralink?

Well, human trials seem to be the next step, and the company ambitiously claims that they will begin in less than 6 months. In a tweet from the CEO on Wednesday, November 30th, Musk said, “We are now confident that the Neuralink device is ready for humans, so timing is a function of working through the FDA approval process.” According to their website, the Federal Food and Drug Administration is responsible for, “protecting the public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, and medical devices.” This means that Neuralink will not be approved to begin human trials, unless the FDA deems their endeavors and practices to be safe.

As far as endeavors go, Musk’s goals seem to be perfectly ethical. He claims that he not only intends to help people with brain disorders and paralysis, but permanently cure multiple aspects of their impairment. The device, like much of Musk’s technology, is meant to be accessible to the masses, not subject to a small group of wealthy individuals, like many other treatments for brain disorders. The surgery will be somewhat easy, considering what it is achieving, and will not require open brain surgery. This means it will require less risk and will be a lot safer than implants designed by other companies in the field. To achieve this goal, he has invited medical and neuroscience professionals to join the team, creating jobs for those who are qualified.

Whether Musk’s timeline goals are achievable or not, we will soon find out. In six months, it is possible that a new, revolutionary, technological achievement will be made. This technology could enable thousands of people suffering from physical disorders and injuries to regain their independence. With so much on his plate, especially with his most recent purchase of social media company, Twitter, Musk will require many talented individuals to accomplish his ambitions, but he seems to be very confident in his team and their work.