Elon Musk’s brain-chip firm, Neuralink, which has recently received approval from the U.S. Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) to conduct its first tests on humans. This is a significant milestone, considering an earlier bid by Neuralink for FDA approval was rejected on safety grounds.
Neuralink’s primary objective is to help restore vision and mobility to individuals by linking brains to computers. This technology could potentially treat conditions like paralysis and blindness and assist certain disabled people in using computers and mobile technology.
Here are just a few conditions this technology is intended to alleviate.
- Paralysis: By implanting chips that can interpret brain signals and translate them into movement commands, it’s hoped that individuals who are paralyzed may regain some mobility.
- Blindness and sensory impairment: Similarly, there’s potential that the technology could be used to bypass damaged sensory organs, allowing signals from the brain to be interpreted and used to stimulate artificial sensory devices.
- Neurological disorders: Conditions like Parkinson’s disease or epilepsy, which are caused by specific patterns of brain activity, might be alleviated by chips that can detect and counteract these patterns.
- Mental health disorders: There’s also potential for chips that can detect and modulate brain activity to be used in treating conditions like depression or PTSD.
The microchips, which have been tested in monkeys, are designed to interpret signals produced in the brain and relay information to devices via Bluetooth. However, experts have warned that these brain implants will require extensive testing to overcome technical and ethical challenges before they become widely available.
Any volunteers? Yikes!
Interestingly, Musk has also suggested that this technology could alleviate concerns about humans being displaced by artificial intelligence. This approval is seen as an “important first step that will one day allow our technology to help many people”, according to a Neuralink announcement on Twitter.
While the company does not have immediate plans to start recruiting participants, it has promised more information “soon” on plans to sign up trial participants. The firm assures that “safety, accessibility, and reliability” are all priorities during its engineering process.
Despite the promising breakthrough, it’s important to note that Neuralink has historically overestimated the speed at which it can execute its plans. Its initial aim was to start implanting chips in human brains in 2020, but it later changed its start date to 2022.
Moreover, the company faced a setback in December of the previous year when it reportedly came under investigation for alleged animal welfare violations in its work. Nevertheless, the recent FDA approval for human tests follows a similar breakthrough involving brain implants by Swiss researchers, which allowed a paralyzed man from the Netherlands to walk just by thinking about it. These implants wirelessly transmit his thoughts to his legs and feet.
Is this an exciting time for advancements in neuroscience, and could this technology potentially revolutionize treatments for various conditions and disabilities or is this the beginning of the END?!.
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