Home Science The FDA has given Neuralink permission to implant its chip into people

The FDA has given Neuralink permission to implant its chip into people


Imagine searching on Google, writing your thoughts in a journal without lifting a finger, and having the superpowers of a robot. Imagine this: all of your thoughts are decoded into a computer-compatible language and transmitted through a server hopefully controlled by someone you trust. Think about it and you will understand the context around Neuralink.

Brain-computer interface (BCI) company Neuralink just announced that it has received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to begin testing brain chip implants in humans. For those who haven’t noticed, Elon Musk founded Neuralink in 2016 to develop microchips that can send and receive data directly from the human brain.

The topic is definitely interesting and very important. However, like many scientific problems, this new technology poses risks and challenges. As Uncle Ben once said in Spider-Man, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

What is Neuralink?

The Neuralink chip is a small piece of hardware, slightly wider and less than a quarter thick. The chip contains 64 wires, each a few micrometers thick, and 16 tiny electrodes.
(For comparison, one micrometer is 1/15 the width of a hair.)

Brain cells communicate in part by sending small electrical impulses.
For this reason, doctors and scientists use electrode devices (most commonly non-invasive brain imaging (EEG) devices) to measure brain activity by measuring cellular signals.

So if neurons use electrical impulses to coordinate their functions, we can also influence brain function by sending impulses from the electrodes to the cells.

For some serious neurological diseases such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease or chronic pain, deep brain stimulation (DBS) uses electrical signals to therapeutically alter cell signaling.
The advantage of implants is precision.

When external devices are used, the skull and tissues partially attenuate the signal.

Therefore, invasive electrodes for precise functions such as finger flexion ensure greater precision in both measurement and pulse transmission.

How is the Neuralink chip used?

The Neuralink chip is surgically implanted. During the operation, a precision robot drills a hole in the patient’s skull and carefully inserts threads into the brain. This process takes several hours.

Once healed, the device is invisible except for a small scar and can be recharged using personalized items such as a special pillow or baseball cap. The expected procedure will cost insurance companies around $40,000.

Neuralk initiates patient records and the current first phase test objectives will allow Tetraplays to control their computer in display mode. In such cases, the brain functions well, but the nerve connections to the muscles are damaged.

By measuring signals in the area that controls finger and hand movements, called the motor cortex, the Neuralink chip transmits data to a computer.

So instead of moving the hand, the patient just has to think about it. You can use it to send text messages, surf the Internet, and mentally navigate menus.

Neuralink’s main competitors, Synchron and Onward, have a head start in human testing, allowing the use of computer navigation alongside walking, cycling and swimming.

Additionally, the BCI implant has been on the market for about 20 years and was first developed by Blackrock Neurotech. However, Neuralink hopes to offer a less bulky, much higher resolution device powered by the company’s latest artificial intelligence.

In the ICB industry this can mean greater precision. During the Neuralink demonstration on August 28, 2020, Musk expressed his belief that not only do most people develop brain or spine problems over time, but that an implant like Neuralink could solve these and other problems.

The potential threat of biotechnology

It is clear that biotechnology’s potential for medical applications, improved cognitive function, quality of life and cutting-edge research has attracted many people.

However, new technologies are not without problems. On the one hand, there is the question of consent.
Families of vulnerable people may be desperate for treatment and choose to care for a paralyzed family member.

For people who cannot communicate freely due to paralysis (“locked-in syndrome”), the new beta testing technology could pose a risk of undesirable results.

In addition, new biotechnology poses unknown risks and side effects, especially when it involves biochemical activities. An attack of symptoms can lead to other intentional symptoms.

Although Neuralink has been tested on animals for several years, additional problems may arise when testing on humans.

Although treatments have become popular, we still see that some treatments have long-term and widespread negative consequences.

In addition to biological issues, another important issue is security and even autonomy at the most basic level. We live in a time where cybercriminals dominate, edgy marketing campaigns are mandated, and “social” systems decide personal freedom. Brain hacking or mind spying takes these problems to a new level.

Another question about the possible neural improvements that Neuralink can provide is similar to those discussed in the context of gene therapy and sports medicine. That is, if operating conditions change, will this lead to even greater inequality? Furthermore, will this new technology contribute to those who oppose this new technology contributing to a world where they are under pressure to “keep up” with those who support these changes?

Where are we going with this?

Behind many scientific achievements is competition: the desire to build something great, to be first and to “do it better” than your predecessors. However, Musk said he is pushing his team hard because he believes the chip can help millions of people and save humanity from the potential threat of artificial intelligence.

But for what purpose? Is humanity ready for this step? Are we still human? Something better? Other? Or perhaps we have crossed the line that leads to a good life, but at the expense of improving some aspects? This is a conversation our society needs to have and one that will certainly become more necessary as time goes on.

With information from: The Epoch Times

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