‘Three little pigs’ help Elon Musk demonstrate Neuralink’s brain implant
Neuralink co-founder Elon Musk holds a brain implant device between his fingers during a presentation about the technology. (Neuralink via YouTube) With grudging assistance from a trio of pigs, Neuralink co-founder Elon Musk showed off the startup’s state-of-the-art neuron-reading brain implant and announced that the system has received the Food and Drug Administration’s preliminary blessing as an experimental medical device.
During today’s demonstration at Neuralink’s headquarters in Fremont, Calif., it took a few minutes for wranglers to get the swine into their proper positions for what Musk called his “Three Little Pigs demonstration.”
One of the pigs was in her natural state, and roamed unremarkably around her straw-covered pen. Musk said the second pig of the trio had been given a brain implant that was later removed, demonstrating that the operation could be reversed safely.
After some difficulty, a third pig named Gertrude was brought into her pen. As she rooted around in the straw, a sequence of jazzy electronic beeps played through the sound system. Musk said the tones were sounded whenever nerves in the pig’s snout triggered electrical signals that were picked up by her brain implant.
“The beeps you’re hearing are real-time signals from the Neuralink in Gertrude’s head,” he said.
Eventually, Neuralink’s team plans to place the implants in people, initially to see if those who have become paralyzed due to spinal cord injuries can regain motor functions through thought alone.
Musk said the implant received a Breakthrough Device designation from the FDA last month. That doesn’t yet clear the way for human clinical trials, but it does put Neuralink on the fast track for consultation with the FDA’s experts during preparations for such trials.
Neuralink has received more than $150 million in funding, with roughly two-thirds of that support coming from Musk himself. Today he said the venture had about 100 employees. He expects that number to grow. “Over time, there might be 10,000 or more people at Neuralink,” he said.
Musk said the primary purpose of today’s demonstration was to recruit more job applicants.
Brain-computer interfaces have been the stuff of science fiction for decades, and in a sense, they already exist in the form of neuron-reading electrode grids . But Musk and his Neuralink team are aiming to create easily implantable, wireless devices that theoretically could be used to give full sight to the blind and make it possible for people to communicate thoughts directly.
Over the longer term, Musk said the system could help people store and replay their memories, upload their minds and download them back into robotic bodies, or merge their consciousness with AI agents.
“This is obviously sounding increasingly like a ‘Black Mirror’ episode,” he said. “The future is going to be weird.”
Neuralink’s researchers aren’t...