Elon Musk is taking his Neuralink startup to the next level by hiring a clinical director to prepare for human brain implant trials.
Neuralink, a technology that will ostensibly serve as a neural human-machine interface, is intended for use by those suffering from severe physical disabilities and enable them to regain their ability to walk or other bodily functions.
In advanced use, the technology could enable humans to control machines remotely through their thoughts.
A job advertisement through Neuralink states that the position will “work closely with some of the most innovative doctors and top engineers, as well as working with Neuralink’s first Clinical Trial participants,” and enable them to build a team responsible for enabling the company’s clinical research activities and develop “the regulatory interactions that come with a fast-paced and ever-evolving environment.”
At the present, the U.S. federal government and other regulatory agencies do not yet have any rules or regulations to determine the limits or ethical boundaries surrounding neural interface technology, which is in its infancy.
In December, Musk announced at the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Summit that his company intends to begin human trials in 2022. Musk said the the company’s “standards for implanting the device are substantially higher than what the FDA requires,” Business Insider reported.
Last April, Musk shared a video of a monkey playing a video game with a Neuralink brain implant, which enabled the primate to control the paddles in a game of Pong.
“Monkey plays Pong with his mind,” wrote Musk. “A monkey is literally playing a video game telepathically using a brain chip!!”
On December 6, Musk revealed that the Neuralink technology with accelerate this year because “it is hard to have nuanced conversations with monkeys.”
Replacing faulty/missing neurons with circuits is the right way to think about it. Many problems can be solved just bridging signals between existing neurons.
Progress will accelerate when we have devices in humans (hard to have nuanced conversations with monkeys) next year.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 7, 2021
The first use of Neuralink’s technology, called N1 Link, will enable quadriplegics the ability to access the internet and their computers or phones without using their hands. The company stated in a blog post:
Neuralink has spent the last four years building the first high channel count brain machine interface intended for therapeutic use in patients. Our first product, the N1 Link, is a 1024 channel device that, once implanted, is completely invisible and transmits data via a wireless connection. The first indication this device is intended for is to help quadriplegics regain their digital freedom by allowing users to interact with their computers or phones in a high bandwidth and naturalistic way. The funds from the round will be used to take Neuralink’s first product to market and accelerate the research and development of future products.
According to the company, the Link is “a neural implant that lets you control a computer or mobile device anywhere you go,” adding that “Micron-scale threads are inserted into areas of the brain that control movement. Each thread contains many electrodes and connects them to an implant, the Link.”