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Neuralink founder Elon Musk said he hopes implanting wireless brain-computer chips in humans will play a role in the existential risk of population reduction posed by artificial intelligence.
Musk’s neurotechnology startup company announced on Tuesday that recruitment is open to implant a wireless brain-computer interface in its first-in-human clinical trial. Officials said in a blog post that it would evaluate the safety and functionality of an implant and surgical robot for people with severe degenerative diseases.
“The first human patient will soon receive a Neuralink device. This ultimately has the potential to restore full body movement,” Musk said in an X-post on his social media platform. “In the long term, Neuralink hopes to play a role in AI risk civilizational risk reduction by improving human to AI (and human to human) bandwidth by several orders of magnitude. Imagine if Stephen Hawking had had this.”
“When a Neuralink is combined with Optimus robot limbs, the Luke Skywalker solution can become real,” he added in a subsequent post along with the famous scene in “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.”
Neuralink officials said the initial goal of the Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) aims to allow people to control a computer cursor or keyboard using their thoughts alone.
“During the study, the R1 Robot will be used to surgically place the N1 Implant’s ultra-fine and flexible threads in a region of the brain that controls movement intention,” the company announced. “Once in place, the N1 Implant is cosmetically invisible and is intended to record and transmit brain signals wirelessly to an app that decodes movement intention.”
The company received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in May to launch its first-in-human clinical study.
Neuralink received FDA breakthrough designation for its technology three years ago, and Musk repeatedly claimed that human trials would begin immediately. However, the company had its application rejected in early 2022 by the FDA over safety concerns.
Musk has touted over the years that the experimental brain-chip implant could treat disorders such as paralysis and blindness by bridging signals between existing neurons and allowing humans to save and replay memories, saying that “the future is going to be weird.”
However, the billionaire entrepreneur has repeatedly warned that artificial intelligence could pose a civilizational risk to governments and societies. Others have warned that such technology could eliminate more workforces across several industries and spread mass confusion among civilians.
Last week, Musk told reporters after a private AI summit with other tech giants on Capitol Hill that the consequences of artificial intelligence are “severe” and called on a “proactive rather than reactive” response.
“The question is really one of civilizational risk,” Musk said, according to NBC News. “It’s not like … one group of humans versus another. It’s like, hey, this is something that’s potentially risky for all humans everywhere.”
Earlier this year, more than 350 executives, researchers, and engineers in AI echoed similar caution about the technology subjecting humanity to extinction in an open letter.
“Mitigating the risk of extinction from A.I. should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks, such as pandemics and nuclear war,” the one-sentence statement said from the nonprofit organization Center for AI Safety.
Industry leaders said they penned the letter to overcome this obstacle, open up discussion, and create shared knowledge among those who take advanced AI’s most severe risks seriously.