FDA authorized Neuralink to implant its chip in humans

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

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

The topic is certainly interesting and very important. However, as with many scientific problems, this new technology comes with 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 microns thick, and contains 16 tiny electrodes.
(For comparison: a micron is 1/15 of 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.

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

In some serious neurological conditions, such as epilepsy, Parkinson 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 will partially attenuate the signal.

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

How is the Neuralink chip used?

The Neuralink chip is surgically implanted. During surgery, 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 with personalized items such as a special pillow or baseball cap. The expected intervention will cost insurance companies around USD 40,000.

Neuralk initiates patient records and current first phase testing goals will allow tetraplays to control their computer with display mode. In such cases, the brain works 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 needs to think about it. It allows you to send text messages, browse the Internet, and mentally navigate menus.

Neuralink's main competitors, Synchron and Onward, have a head start in human testing, allowing computer navigation to be used 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 device with much higher resolution, powered by the company's latest artificial intelligence.

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

The potential threat of biotechnology

It is clear that the potential of biotechnology 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 a paralyzed family member.

For people who cannot communicate freely due to paralysis ("locked-in syndrome"), new beta testing technology could put them at risk of undesirable outcomes.

Furthermore, new biotechnology requires unknown risks and side effects, especially if it affects 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 tested on humans.

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

In addition to biological issues, another major issue is safety and even autonomy at the most basic level. We live in a time when cybercriminals dominate, nervous marketing ordered advertising campaigns and "social" systems to decide personal freedom. Brain hacking or mind spying takes these problems to a new level.

Another question regarding the possible neuronal improvements that Neuralink can provide is similar to those discussed in relation to gene therapy and sports medicine. That is, if operating conditions change, will this lead to even greater inequality? Furthermore, for those who oppose this new technology, will it contribute to a world where they will face 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 “do it better” than those who came before. However, Musk said that he is putting a lot of pressure on his team 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 cost of improving some aspects? This is a conversation our society needs to have and will certainly become more necessary over time.

With information of: The Epoch Times