Thousands of people have expressed interest in receiving one of Neuralink’s brain implants, a recent Bloomberg report from one of Elon Musk’s biographers, Ashlee Vance, says.
- Thousands of people are interested in becoming Neuralink patients, a Bloomberg report says.
- Elon Musk’s startup received FDA approval earlier this year to start human trials.
- The brain-chip startup hopes to implant a device that acts as a “Fitbit in your skull.”
Vance, who said he visited Neuralink’s facilities 10 times in three years, said the company had yet to implant its device in a human but aimed to operate on 11 people next year and more than 22,000 by 2030.
Earlier this year, the US Food and Drug Administration gave Neuralink, which Musk cofounded in 2016, approval to launch human trials of its device that Musk has described as a “Fitbit in your skull.” The FDA had previously rejected Neuralink’s bid for human testing in March over safety concerns, Reuters reported, including that the wires connected to the brain chip could move within a subject’s head or that the chip could overheat.
In September, the company began recruiting for its first human trial. Neuralink said in a blog post that it was looking for people who had paralysis in all four limbs because of a spinal-cord injury or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The company says it hopes to eventually make a device that will create a sort of symbiosis between humans and machines and will allow people to send messages or play games using only their thoughts. But first, the company says it hopes to help people with neurological disorders.
Vance, who authored the 2015 biography “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future,” said in his report that despite “an outpouring of interest from thousands of prospective patients,” the company was still looking for its first volunteer or “someone willing to have a chunk of their skull removed by a surgeon so a large robot can insert a series of electrodes and superthin wires into their brain.”
Musk’s biographer said it would take a “couple of hours” for a surgeon to perform the craniectomy and then about 25 minutes for the robot to insert the device, along with its ultrathin array of about 64 threads. He said the device would replace the portion of the skull that had been removed. Vance added that the threads were about one-fourteenth the width of a single strand of human hair.
Vance wrote that Neuralink had done 155 implantation surgeries using the robot on a variety of animal test subjects, including pigs and monkeys. But, he said, in typical Musk fashion, the billionaire had continued to push for the robot to move faster, as well as for the surgery to be performed without human help.
A spokesperson for Neuralink did not respond to a request for comment ahead of publication.
The biographer said Musk had pointed to the need to combat competition from other brain-computer startups such as Synchron and Onward, which had already begun human trials.
“They are currently kicking our ass,” Musk said after Synchron implanted its first device in a US patient in July 2022. (In December 2021, one of Synchron’s patients in Australia was the first person to send a tweet using only his thoughts.)
Vance quoted the billionaire saying Neuralink needed to pick up its pace “like the world is coming to an end” to keep up with artificial intelligence and the possibility of an AI being that wouldn’t be friendly to humans.
Yet while Musk’s “maniacal sense of urgency” may work at Tesla or SpaceX — where he has initiated sprints and slept on the factory floor to meet deadlines — at least one Neuralink executive has taken a note of caution.