Neuralink has released a new video showing a monkey typing using only its brain, which the company suggests will allow them to further their ambitions of implanting the chip into humans next year. The demonstration, which Neuralink claims shows “telepathic typing”, allows the monkey to interface with the computer via a chip implanted in its brain, although it's not the first time we've seen something like this.
Titled “Neuralink Show and Tell”, the presentation last week was a deep dive into the work the company has been doing in recent times, including the neural interface, implant testing, and spinal cord applications.
Co-founder Elon Musk kicked off proceedings with an intro before a range of researchers performed a live robot implantation of the chip, a monkey was shown typing on a virtual keyboard, and other demonstrations of the various applications of an internal brain-computer interface. The technology is intended to help people with paralysis and blindness, but even Musk himself has hinted at getting one.
Musk stated that now they have reached this point, the chip will soon be available for human clinical trials, and went one step further by stating that if his children got into an accident that Neuralink could help with, he believes the procedure is safe enough to go ahead with.
The billionaire had previously made outlandish claims about the tech, suggesting it will “render language obsolete” in 5-10 years and “cure” tinnitus. The company now awaits FDA approval before it can reach the minds of humans.
While the work looks impressive, it has garnered significant criticism from the neuroscience community for being far less cutting-edge than Neurolink proclaims, as well as their large death rates on the primates used in testing.
Neuralink states it is on the bleeding edge of technology, creating brain-computer interfaces that will decidedly change how we treat people with life-altering conditions, yet neuroscientists say it is actually behind by years and in some cases, decades. Brain interfaces have been available for years, and in recent years multiple laboratories have demonstrated wired and wireless devices that can read brain signals and translate them into computer actions. The company is one of the only ones to be exploring direct brain implants, but that comes at its own cost.
Earlier this year, reports surfaced suggesting Neuralink could be killing more primates than necessary and evidence of poor treatment of animals circulated the internet. A Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) lawsuit alleges that work undertaken at the University of California Davis, where Neuralink was based before relocating to Texas, was inhumane and subjected primates to unnecessary suffering.
The college stated they had 185 photos of the monkey experiments, including necropsies, but refused to release them because the “public would misunderstand them”. The lawsuit is still underway against the company for the mistreatment of lab animals.
Musk addressed these concerns in the latest Show and Tell, stating the monkeys were all “happy and healthy”, but that remains to be confirmed.