Neuralink has been working since 2016 toward implanting computer chips into people's brains. The company's animal experiments have gone extremely poorly, but that hasn't stopped Musk from announcing in December that the company plans to initiate human trials within six months. (Related: Neuralink brain implants are ready for injection into humans, says Elon Musk.)
Musk has repeatedly promoted the Neuralink as a way for people to interface with digital appliances with just a thought, such as being able to move a cursor, send a text message or type in a word processor just by thinking. He has also promoted its use for helping people with physical disabilities communicate.
Neuralink has also come under fire in recent months for its treatment of its animal test subjects. One report that dropped in December 2022 alleged that, Neuralink has killed over 1,500 animals since 2018, most of them monkeys.
Worse yet for Musk and the company, Neuralink is currently under investigation by the Department of Transportation for illegally moving contaminated hardware.
Public documents obtained from Neuralink show that the company did not properly transport contaminated brain implants removed from deceased monkeys. These implants may have harbored infectious pathogens, including dangerous viruses like herpes and bacteria like Staphylococcus and Klebsiella.
One staffer from the University of California, Davis, who worked with Neuralink in 2019, wrote to warn the company that the contaminated hardware was being handled incorrectly.
"Since the hardware components of the explanted neural device are not sealed and it was not disinfected prior to leaving the Primate Center, this presents a hazard for anyone potentially coming in contact with the device," wrote the staffer. "Simply labeling it 'hazardous' doesn't account for the risk of potentially contracting herpes B."
Unfortunately for Musk, compelling evidence strongly suggests that brain-computer interface (BCI) devices like the Neuralink chip can cause serious cognitive changes beyond the scope of their intended applications.
Frederic Gilbert, a philosophy professor specializing in applied neuroethics at the University of Tasmania in Australia interviewed people who have had BCIs and noticed some odd effects.
"The notions of personality, identity, agency, authenticity, autonomy and self – these are very compact, obscure and opaque dimensions," said Gilbert. "Nobody really agrees on what they mean, but we have cases where it's clear that BCIs have induced changes in personality or expression of sexuality."
Gilbert noticed in his interview studies that many patients who have had BCIs have reported feeling estranged from themselves. "They know that they are themselves, but it's not like it was prior to the implantation," he said.
Another person Gilbert interviewed developed a kind of decision paralysis where the person felt they could not go out or decide what to eat without first consulting the BCI. Gilbert noted that the device was supplanting the person's role in decision-making.
Some negative instances of estrangement, known as deteriorative estrangement, has even led to extreme cases, including people attempting suicide.
Neuralink has been dogged by a history of scandals and overhyped promises. It has failed to deliver on timelines and it has triggered multiple federal investigations into claims of animal welfare violations. The fact that previous BCI devices have fundamentally altered people's personalities calls into question why Neuralink would want to rush into human trials before conducting further safety testing.
Learn about other cases involving experimentation on human beings at MedicalExperiments.news.
Watch this episode of "Stranger Than Fiction News" exposing how the monkeys implanted with Neuralink's brain chips all dropped dead.