Elon Musk says Neuralink is about ‘six months’ from human trials

Elon Musk says Neuralink is about ‘six months’ from human trials

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Elon Musk wants to put chips in human brains.

At a flashy ‘show and tell’ event on Wednesday night, Musk for at least the third time said that the company is nearing human trials for his company Neuralink, which is developing implants that could connect the human brain to computers. He said he has filed “most” of the required paperwork with the Food and Drug Administration and that he aims to start human trials in roughly six months.

Still, experts have been skeptical of Musk’s announcements amid a broader field of brain implant research. It is unclear whether the FDA is considering a request to begin human trials, and in the past, Musk has said trials would begin in 2020 and later, in 2022.

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The event — which was delayed by a month — comes amid a busy time for the world’s richest man. Musk acquired Twitter for $44 billion late last month and has demanded workers there commit to being “hardcore,” tweeting a photo of a late night session with engineers. On Thursday, Tesla is expected to deliver its first electric semi truck. He’s also CEO of rocket company SpaceX.

Some analysts and investors are worried Musk is stretched too thin. Others noted Musk has a history of setting bold deadlines that he doesn’t meet, such as missed deadlines of sending a SpaceX rocket to Mars.

Musk showed a video at the event where he said a monkey was using its mind to control a computer cursor and type. Neuralink’s use of animals in testing has angered activists and sparked claims that the company is harming animals through “sloppy experiments” that have resulted in infections, seizures, paralysis and internal bleeding.

“When it comes to Neuralink, Elon Musk is just a modern-day P.T. Barnum,” Ryan Merkley, director of research advocacy at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, an advocacy group. “He’s a showman who makes big promises while hiding the grisly details from the public.”

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Neuralink technology is similar to research being done by others on how to convert brain signals into action. In July, Neuralink competitor, Synchron, implanted its device in a patient in the United States for the first time. The company received regulatory clearance for human trials in 2021.

The Wednesday night event also involved a big push in recruitment. Touting the jobs open at the company, Musk said it’s not necessary people to know about biology or neuroscience to work for his brain implant start-up.

“When you look at the skills that are needed to make Neuralink work,” he said, “it’s actually a lot of the same skills that are required to make a modern smartwatch or phone work.”