Elon Musk's First Human Neuralink Patient Says He Was Assured 'No Monkey Has Died As A Result Of A Neuralink Implant' — Despite Some Of The 23 Subjects Dying

Noland Arbaugh, a 29-year-old man who has been paralyzed from the neck down for eight years from a diving accident, recently made headlines as the first human to have Elon Musk’s Neuralink brain chip implanted. This milestone follows Musk’s initiative to advance a technology that aims to meld human cognition with digital devices. Despite the revolutionary nature of this development, major concerns about the safety of the technology exist, especially in light of previous trials on animals.

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The Neuralink project, which has seen its fair share of awe and criticism, faced significant scrutiny over reports of monkeys dying or needing to be euthanized during testing phases. These primates were part of experiments designed to assess the ability of Neuralink’s brain chips to enable control of technology through thought alone. The reports of a high mortality rate among these test subjects stirred a debate about the ethical considerations of advanced biomedical research.

“I read a lot of the negative stuff about this before the surgery — about all the terrible things that [the company was] putting the monkeys through and how awful it was, monkeys like picking out their implant and rubbing it on the ground and all sorts of stuff,” Arbaugh shared with the Sun, reflecting on his initial concerns before agreeing to the implant procedure. 

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The accounts he referred to include disturbing imagery of monkeys with drilled skulls and the alleged suffering endured by the animals during Neuralink’s experimentation phase. One report detailed a monkey missing fingers and toes, a condition suggested to have been caused by self-mutilation, while another case involved a monkey that experienced vomiting, retching and gasping before it was found to have suffered a brain hemorrhage.

Despite these reports, Neuralink defended its testing practices, stating that adverse outcomes were not directly related to the brain implants themselves. The company acknowledged the euthanization of several animals but attributed the loss of limbs to inter-monkey aggression rather than to the effects of the technology or testing conditions. Elon Musk, in response to the controversy, said on social media, “No monkey has died as a result of a Neuralink implant. First, our early implants, to minimize risk to healthy monkeys, we chose terminal monkeys (sic) (close to death already).”

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Arbaugh’s decision to proceed with the implant was based on extensive discussions with Neuralink, which ultimately alleviated his concerns about the safety and ethical implications of the technology. His positive outcome, demonstrated by his ability to play chess and video games using only his thoughts, represents a significant advancement toward Neuralink’s goal of restoring autonomy to individuals with severe physical limitations. 

The path to innovation has not been without its detractors, with public opinion divided over the move to human trials. The ethical concerns surrounding the preliminary animal tests, the potential risks involved in human implementation and the broader implications of such technology continue to spark debate. 

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