The United States scrutinizes Neuralink for its animal tests

Neuralink, Elon Musk’s project that aims to insert chips into the brain, is under investigation for animal testing by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) inspector general, according to Reuters. Rumors suggest that its chips could start being implanted on humans in six months, but it has been tested on animals before that and some employees assure that There has been “unnecessary suffering and death”.

Reuters reported that it is estimated that, by 2018, Neuralink has taken the lives of 1500 animals, which includes more than 280 sheep, pigs and monkeys. Initially, the company has passed all USDA inspections, so the death toll doesn’t mean they’re breaking the law. However, some internal employees pressured the project’s founder (Musk) to speed up the process, which meant that the death toll increased.

Reports brought to light by media outlets suggest that Musk ‘encouraged’ his employees to fast asking them to imagine that they had a bomb strapped to their head, In addition, the businessman sent an email with an article talking about an implant he had made in Switzerland that helped a man walk again: “We are not going fast enough. It’s driving me crazy!”.

Image of a device the company intends to implant in human heads to connect brains to machines.
Image of a device the company intends to implant in human heads to connect brains to machines.

One employee insisted that rushed surgeries on animals lead to mistakes by stressed and untrained staff. One such example was the placement of a brain-machine interface device on the wrong vertebrae of two pigs. This could easily have been avoided by counting the vertebrae, but the speed with which they had to perform the tests led to a mistake that forced them to euthanize the animals to end their suffering.

A brain chip would allow seriously injured people to operate electronic devices with their brains.

Faced with the allegations, Elon Musk has defended himself by saying that he is “extremely careful”: “Before even thinking about putting a device on an animal, we do everything possible with rigorous laboratory tests.” However, Reuters has talked about the existence of Neuralink records that show “Exploratory surgery” has taken place.

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