Neuralink BCI human implant subject moving computer mouse by thought: Elon Musk

The first patient implanted with the Neuralink brain-computer interface (BCI) reportedly is well and has moved a computer mouse cursor by thought. Mr. Musk said this Monday during an X Spaces event, according to Reuters. The thought control is limited to moving the cursor around the screen. Quoted in the Independent (UK), Musk said, “We’re trying to get as many button presses as possible from thinking. So that’s what we’re currently working on is: can you get left mouse, right mouse, mouse down, mouse up… We want to have more than just two buttons.” This is rapid progress, given that the implant was reported on 1 February.

Ars Technica discusses a salient point, which is ethics around reporting a medical study via, in this case, social media, and by the company founder. It is not the way that research is conventionally conducted especially at an early stage. Ars quotes two bioethics professors who wrote a brief essay on this published by the Hastings Center. The PRIME study took only quadriplegic volunteers and the study received a go-ahead from the FDA for this early feasibility study. The money quote: “When the person paying for a human experiment with a huge financial stake in the outcome is the sole source of information, basic ethical standards have not been met.” (However, in the view of the Editor, this entire ethical standard was fractured beyond repair by the Covid fiasco.) The writers also target the researchers, doctors, and other medical professionals taking part in the research. But taking this further, what happens if, as in many studies of high-risk devices, things go wrong? If this Editor were advising Mr. Musk, I would tell him to let his company and scientists do the talking–and stay mum until more solid results are achieved, or not. The two bioethicists also make the point that it could raise the hopes of those with serious paralysis, but that is true of all medical research. Another interesting discussion on Neuralink’s potential is on Yahoo!Finance. Previously in TTA 1 Feb. 

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