The MIT Technology Review has taken issue with Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s latest demonstration of his Neuralink brain implant technology which was revealed at a recent event in which pigs implanted with the interface were showcased. According to the Review, Musk’s brain research is “neuroscience theater.”
In a recent article from the MIT Technology Review titled “Elon Musk’s Neuralink is Neuroscience Theater,” the Review takes issue with Elon Musk’s recent Neuralink event in which a number of pigs that had been fitted with the brain-computer interface were shown on stage.
The MIT Technology Review writes that Elon Musk promises Neuralink will cure blindness, deafness, and mental illness, among other claims, but that Musk isn’t close to any of these breakthroughs:
None of these advances are close at hand, and some are unlikely to ever come about. But in a “product update” streamed over YouTube on Friday, Musk, also the founder of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, joined staffers wearing black masks to discuss the company’s work toward an affordable, reliable brain implant that Musk believes billions of consumers will clamor for in the future.
“In a lot of ways,” Musk said, “It’s kind of like a Fitbit in your skull, with tiny wires.”
The Review notes that although the recent Neuralink event was described as a product demonstration, there is still no product for sale or a timeline for the future. The Review further notes that Neuralink is not the first to believe that brain implants could extend or restore human capabilities, in the late 1990s researchers began placing probes in the brains of paralyzed people in order to show that signals from the brain could let them move robot arms or computer cursors.
The Review noted that during the demonstration, Musk avoided giving a timeline for release of the Neuralink product.
The Review also noted that Musk’s main attraction at the event — three pigs — was nothing that scientists hadn’t seen before:
In tweets leading up to the event, Musk had promised fans a mind-blowing demonstration of neurons firing inside a living brain—though he didn’t say of what species. Minutes into the livestream, assistants drew a black curtain to reveal three small pigs in fenced enclosures; these were the subjects of the company’s implant experiments.
The brain of one pig contained an implant, and hidden speakers briefly chimed out ringtones that Musk said were recordings of the animal’s neurons firing in real time. For those awaiting the “matrix in the matrix,” as Musk had hinted on Twitter, the cute-animal interlude was not exactly what they hoped for. To neuroscientists, it was nothing new; in their labs the buzz and crackle of electrical impulses recorded from animal brains (and some human ones) has been heard for decades.
Read the full article at the MIT Technology Review here.