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Worried scientists have issued a stark warning following Elon Musk’s ‘Black Mirror’ style brain-implant startup.
News broke last week that the company, Neuralink is gearing up to start human trials.
The five-year-old startup has already tested the brain implant on monkeys and pigs.
If successful, the device could allow patients to operate computers using only their thoughts.
Their aim is to help alleviate certain disabilities, like enabling paralysed people to control their computers and mobile devices through brain activity.
But Musk has suggested he has greater ambitions for the device down the line. He previously outlined his vision to help humans achieve “symbiosis” with artificial intelligence to avoid being “left behind” by machines.
Experts have expressed huge concerns about the company’s oversight, the potential impact on trial participants, and whether society is prepared for the stakes of fusing human brains and tech together.
According to the Daily Beast, experts are worried about every step of Neuralink’s trajectory—starting with the trials themselves.
Dr. L. Syd Johnson, an associate professor in the Center for Bioethics and Humanities at SUNY Upstate Medical University: “These are very niche products—if we’re really only talking about developing them for paralyzed individuals—the market is small, the devices are expensive.
“If the ultimate goal is to use the acquired brain data for other devices, or use these devices for other things—say, to drive cars, to drive Teslas—then there might be a much, much bigger market.
“But then all those human research subjects—people with genuine needs—are being exploited and used in risky research for someone else’s commercial gain.”
Dr. Karola Kreitmair, assistant professor of medical history and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said: “I don't think there is sufficient public discourse on what the big picture implications of this kind of technology becoming available [are].
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“I worry that there's this uncomfortable marriage between a company that is for-profit… and these medical interventions that hopefully are there to help people.”
She raised concern that if anything goes wrong, we don’t have the technology to remove the device or repair any damage caused. There are also concerns about “the rigour of the scrutiny” from the board that will oversee Neuralink’s trials.
Dr. Johnson, of SUNY Upstate, questioned whether the startup’s scientific capabilities justify its hype. “If Neuralink is claiming that they’ll be able to use their device therapeutically to help disabled persons, they’re over-promising because they’re a long way from being able to do that.”
- Elon Musk
- Artificial Intelligence
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