Elon Musk’s Neuralink has been pushing the limits of science. It promises a revolutionary brain-computer interface technology that seeks to merge the human brain with artificial intelligence. However, the journey of Neuralink has been fraught with controversy, ethical questions, and alarming findings. This is surrounding its testing methods and their results.
Recently, Neuralink secured approval from an independent review board to start a six-year-long human clinical trial. This is a substantial breakthrough for the company. The trial aims to enlist quadriplegic volunteers. Particularly, individuals suffering from spinal column injuries and ALS.
This announcement sparked interest and hope for many. However, it was shortly overtaken by a grim report from Wired. The investigation brought to light shocking details surrounding the deaths of monkeys used in Neuralink’s experiments. The deaths Elon Musk has denied were induced by the implants.
A Dark Tale of Animal Experiments
The Wired investigation found horrific complications in Neuralink’s animal testing phase. It revealed instances of chronic infections, paralysis, and brain swelling. Some of them eventually lead to the euthanization of the test subjects!
The searches were based on public records, interviews with former Neuralink employees, and other sources. This is a distressing picture of the company’s testing protocols between 2017 and 2020.
It also reported that the mechanical installation of titanium plates and bone screws led to severe infections and immense pain in the animals. Musk denied these findings. He mentioned that the animals were “close to death already.” Musk has categorically denied any direct linkage between the deaths and the testing of brain-computer interface implants.
Neuralink experiments on as many as 12 macaques resulted in chronic infections, paralysis, brain swelling, eventually requiring euthanasia. https://t.co/IRpynnkjcA— Popular Science (@PopSci) September 22, 2023
Expert Take On Ethical Concerns
Almost simultaneously, a medical ethics organization focusing on animal rights complained to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). It raises alarms over Neuralink’s alleged attempts to mislead investors. It also says about the misinformation regarding the development history and the safety of the device.
The complaint speaks highly about well-documented reports of rushed and sloppy experiments on animals. This raises significant concerns about the ethical standards and the safety practices of the company.
FDA’s Reluctance and Subsequent Approval
The FDA had initially expressed significant concerns regarding the Neuralink prototypes. Specifically emphasizing potential electrode migrations and the complications surrounding the removal of the device. This could even lead to brain damage!
Subsequently, Neuralink’s requests to initiate human clinical trials were denied, only to be later approved in May 2023. The approval raised questions about the sudden change in stance and the adequacy of safety assessments undertaken.
A Call for a Safer Approach
In the wake of these disturbing revelations, Merkley urged Neuralink to shift its focus towards developing a noninvasive brain-computer interface. He also cites the progress achieved by other researchers in this field. Ryan shows the imperative need to prioritize patient safety and ethical standards over such quick advancements.
The Shadow of Multiple Investigations
The alarming reports and the SEC complaint are not isolated instances. There are at least two more ongoing federal investigations into Neuralink’s animal testing procedures. These investigations are regarding internal complaints about unethical practices and allegations. They are related to the unsafe transport of antibiotic-resistant pathogens following implant removal processes.
Elon Musk’s Stand Amidst the Storm
Despite the waves of debates and grim findings, Elon Musk remains firm. He assures investors and the public about the safety and ethical conduct of Neuralink’s experiments. He emphasized that the animal testing was thorough and focused on fully informed decisions.
The revelation of the alleged unethical and life-threatening practices by Neuralink highlights the importance of transparency, ethical conduct, and practice to safety norms. Even in the pursuit of technological advancements. While Neuralink’s mission may be revolutionary, the means to achieve it must be scrutinized and held to the highest standards of ethical and moral conduct.