Neuralink forges ahead with human trial amid backlash over monkey deaths
This revelation coincided with Musk’s vision of merging Neuralink’s brain chip technology with Tesla’s Optimus robot, potentially leading to the development of Star Wars-inspired robotic limbs.
Musk’s comments came under scrutiny as Neuralink faced allegations of animal cruelty regarding macaque monkeys used in the company’s brain chip experiments.
Neuralink’s goal, founded by Elon Musk in 2016, is to employ brain implants to aid individuals with paralysis and quadriplegia in regaining full-body mobility. Tesla’s Optimus robot, on the other hand, was unveiled during a demonstration at its AI day last year.
Musk’s futuristic vision was shared in a post on X (formerly Twitter), where he emphasised Neuralink’s potential in improving human-to-AI and human-to-human communication.
He stated that combining Neuralink’s brain-interface implant with Optimus robot limbs could turn the Luke Skywalker-like robotic limb solution into reality.
This long-term objective seeks to enhance human-AI interactions and reduce the risks associated with AI technologies.
Calls for probe into Neuralink over deaths of test monkeys
However, amid these ambitious goals, Neuralink faced fresh controversy over its animal testing practices.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine submitted a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), alleging that Musk had misled investors.
Musk had previously stated that no monkeys had died directly due to the implant and that Neuralink only used terminally ill animals in its trials.
The letter, reported by Wired, referenced veterinary records indicating that monkeys implanted with Neuralink’s brain chip experienced extreme pain, accompanied by symptoms such as bloody diarrhoea, paralysis, and brain swelling.
The medical non-profit asserted that a dozen “previously healthy” monkeys had to be euthanised due to issues related to the implant.
Furthermore, it argued that these deaths directly influenced the safety and marketability of Neuralink’s brain-computer interface.
The Physicians Committee has called upon the SEC to investigate the matter thoroughly and apply appropriate penalties to Neuralink and Musk if necessary.
It’s worth noting that Neuralink received FDA approval to commence human trials in May 2023.
This development underscores the broader ethical debate surrounding using animals as test subjects in scientific research, mainly when their welfare and safety are at risk.