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Elon Musk’s brain-implant company Neuralink is under investigation following 1,500 animal fatalities.

Elon Musk’s brain-implant company Neuralink is under investigation following 1,500 animal fatalities.

The federal government is looking into Elon Musk’s medical device company, Neuralink, for suspected breaches of animal welfare standards after reports that animal experimentation has been rushed to provide conclusions although failing multiple timelines.

It comes only days after the world’s wealthiest person publicly stated that he has no concerns about obtaining a Neuralink brain chip surgically inserted. The company Neuralink Corp. is developing a brain implantation that it thinks would treat various neurological diseases as well as provide paralyzed individuals with some form of mobility.

The probe also comes at a time when staff employees at Neuralink are becoming increasingly unsatisfied, according to Reuters. They claim that Elon Musk‘s desire to speed up research has resulted in botched tests that have caused more animal fatalities and misery. Employees at Neuralink raised concerns about animal experiments; it’s not apparent if such concerns are at the center of the probe.

 

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Reuters obtained data showing that the company had murdered around 1,500 animals in 2018. This includes over 280 sheep, pigs, rats, mice, and monkeys whose trials were unsuccessful. The insiders said that figure was an approximation because the organization doesn’t really maintain precise data on the number of animals examined and slaughtered.

The aggregate amount of animals that died doesn’t really imply that Neuralink is conducting its investigation illegally or against ethical standards. Animals are frequently used in research by many companies to improve human healthcare, and these companies are under financial obligation to release cures as soon as feasible.

The animals are typically put to death when tests are complete, sometimes so that they could later be examined for research. Nevertheless, several Neuralink employees have expressed concern that Elon Musk’s attempts to “speed up studies” have resulted in more animal deaths than required in this particular case.

Four automated experiments

Four studies involving 86 pigs and two monkeys that were conducted in recent years were damaged by human mistakes. Reuters claims that because of the mistakes, the experiments had less value as research and had to be repeated, which led to the deaths of more animals.

Even after unsuccessful testing, Neuralink continues to conduct trials without addressing the issues or reaching a final decision, which results in additional animal fatalities.

Such problems might delay the company from starting human trials, which Musk has said the company plans to accomplish within the following 6 months. It’s been over a year since Neuralink demonstrated a monkey implanted with a brain chip playing video games with only its ideas.

What does Neuralink, a maker of brain chips, do?

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Neuralink is probably a name you have come across several times if you have been following technology and science over the years, especially during the last few years. The goal of Elon Musk’s firm is to use specialized hardware to bring the human brain and technology closer than they have ever been.

The business is currently developing the Neuralink N1 chip, a wireless implant that is inserted into the subject’s head and enables the chip to monitor the subject’s brain function while also enabling the brain to use the chip to enable new, previously impractical use cases. This enables better hearing and vision aids for the blind and visually challenged, as well as everything from controlling a computer mouse to machines with your mind.

However, as technology has developed, both Musk and Neuralink have come under scrutiny for violating animal welfare laws, and multiple staff has complained about CEO Musk’s disturbing pressure to produce results faster, which has caused even more issues. Here is a closer examination of the current Neuralink issues, starting with an explanation of the technology itself.

Neuralink, an Elon Musk business that Reuters claimed is under federal investigation for its use of animals in animal testing, has been working to create a brain chip that would allow the blind to see and the crippled to walk.
Learn more about Neuralink’s capabilities here.

WHAT IS NEURALINK?

Neuralink, a company founded in 2016 by Elon Musk and a group of engineers, is developing a brain chip interface that can be implanted inside the skull. The company claims that this interface would eventually allow crippled people to move and communicate again and will also help to recover vision.

The device by Neuralink features a chip that analyses and sends neurological signals that may be sent to gadgets like a phone or a computer. The business envisions a day when someone could use their thoughts to operate a mouse, keyboard, or other computer features like text messaging.

Musk claimed in April 2021 that “the first @Neuralink device will allow someone with paralysis to use a smartphone with their mind faster than someone using thumbs.”
Eventually, according to Neuralink, its product will be able to revive neural activity within the body, enabling people with spinal cord injuries to move their limbs. The startup, which has offices in San Francisco and Austin, also aims to treat neurological diseases including Alzheimer’s and dementia.

WHAT ADVANCES DID NEURALINK MAKE?

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Neuralink has provided numerous examples of successfully testing various aspects of its technology on animals, including a video from 2021 that showed a macaque playing a straightforward videogame after receiving a brain chip implant. The business demonstrated enhancements to the chip’s speed and capabilities in a presentation webcast last week.

Contrary to competitor Synchron, which has less aspirational ambitions for its medical advancements, Neuralink has not yet obtained U.S. regulatory approval to proceed to human trials. Neuralink applied to the Food and Drug Administration this year in order to commence human testing despite missing Musk’s publicly declared dates. Last week, Musk stated that in his opinion, Neuralink can begin human clinical trials in six months.

Examination of Neuralink

While developing the technology and testing it on animals, Neuralink is currently under investigation by the US federal government for alleged violations of animal welfare. These allegations surfaced after Neuralink employees complained that the company rushes animal testing, causing “needless pain and death,” according to a Reuters story.

According to reports, the investigation was started recently by the Inspector General of the US Department of Agriculture at the request of a federal prosecutor. The news also comes at a time when there is widespread employee opposition to the company’s use of animals in research.

This includes grievances from workers who claim that heightened pressure from CEO Musk has led to numerous failed studies that killed the animal subjects. Additionally, according to reports from employees, repeating such unsuccessful tests resulted in more animals being harmed.

The article also notes that since 2018, over 280 lambs, pigs, and monkeys, as well as over 1,500 other species, have died as a result of Neuralink research. Due to the issue, US regulations that don’t specify how many animals can be utilized for research by a corporation have also come to light.

Uncertainty surrounds the number of these deaths that can be directly attributed to the surgical implant. According to the research, rushed schedules have caused overworked staff members to be underprepared and frequently make last-minute alterations before procedures, which increases the likelihood that something will go wrong.

The futuristic plan for Neuralink by Elon Musk

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Musk’s futuristic vision is another significant distinction between Neuralink and its competitors. The startup has lofty goals, according to Musk, who described it as “a universal input-output device that could interface with every component of your brain.” But the long-term scheme is significantly more elaborate.

How do we deal with artificial general intelligence (AI)? Asked Musk. “How can we reduce the risk to the species as a whole if we develop digital superintelligence that is far smarter than any human? How do humans even go along for the ride, even in a benign case where the AI is extremely kind? How do we take part?”

Neuralink is the solution in Elon Musk’s head, at least conceptually for the time being, but possibly even physically in the future.

edited and proofread by nikita sharma

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