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    Chip in the brain. Why is Elon Musk's scandalous invention dangerous?

    MOSCOW, February 24, Zakhar Andreev American entrepreneur Elon Musk announced the success of the Neuralink project: a person who had a chip implanted in his brain was able to control a computer cursor with the power of thought. The technology opens up great prospects – and not only for medicine. However, there are questions about its reliability.

    Simply fantastic

    Musk founded Neuralink in 2016 to create brain-computer interfaces that would allow “telepathic” control of complex mobile devices. As planned, this should help people with severe injuries, brain diseases, paralysis – such as astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, who suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Unfortunately, the famous scientist did not receive the results.

    Later, the entrepreneur stated that a direct effect on the central nervous system would make it possible to fight a variety of ailments, including obesity.

    In addition, Musk did not hide: the ultimate goal is to increase the capabilities of a healthy person by connecting to the computing power of computer networks. And he admitted that he was inspired by science fiction for this idea.

    First successes

    Tests were carried out on monkeys. In 2021, they showed a video of one of the experimental animals playing a primitive computer game of pong, controlling a “racket” with the power of thought. A year later, Musk presented another video – this time the monkey typed text without the use of limbs, selecting letters on the on-screen keyboard. The primate was not literate; he reacted to illuminated symbols.
    Finally, American authorities allowed Neuralink to conduct tests on humans. In January, the businessman announced that the first device, called Telepathy, had been integrated into the human central nervous system. In fact, it is not a chip that is implanted into the brain, but very thin electrodes – this is done by a robotic neurosurgeon. The probes are attached to a device that is attached behind the patient's ear. Communication with a computer is via Bluetooth.

    The first message of success came in February. “Progress is good and the patient appears to have made a full recovery without any side effects. Can move the mouse on the screen with just his mind,” Musk said, as quoted by Reuters.

    According to the entrepreneur, Neuralink now ensures that the patient “clicks” the mouse button as often as possible.
    However, there are too few details. It is unknown what this person is sick with and what “recovered” means. In any case, it is too early to talk about results.

    “Unnecessary suffering”

    Although the project is in its early stages of development, it has already acquired a reputation for scandal. So, in January, Neuralink was fined almost 2.5 thousand dollars for violating the rules for transporting hazardous materials. Supervisors caught the company improperly storing xylene, a flammable liquid. It can cause headaches, dizziness, confusion, loss of muscle coordination and even death.

    And in December 2022, Neuralink employees filed internal complaints about rushed animal experiments that led to ” unnecessary suffering and death” of the monkeys. Musk insisted that primates with terminal illnesses died.

    The media also criticize the company's informational secrecy, and complaints about management methods are leaked to the press – allegedly the head creates a “culture of guilt and fear” in the organization and undermines the authority of managers by inviting employees to contact him directly.
    However, a negative trail follows anyone Musk's project, especially since he has recently become an increasingly politically significant figure.

    “Raise it to a new level”

    Neuralink isn't the only one developing a brain-computer interface. Previously, Sychron began testing on people suffering from paralysis. And Russia has its own developments – in particular, for restoring vision.

    Experts consider the technology to be very promising. “When it becomes widely and widely available, it will allow seriously ill patients who have suffered a spinal cord or brain injury to raise their rehabilitation to a new level,” says medical consultant on neuroimplants “Motorika”, neurosurgeon at the FEFU medical complex, head of the experimental and translational laboratory medicine Artur Biktimirov.

    According to him, patients will be able to interact with relatives and, possibly, control manipulators, which will make their lives much more active.
    In addition, such developments, in principle, take the interaction between man and machine to a new level.

    “We are talking about improving memory, information processing speed, learning ability, as well as the ability to directly interact with digital devices without intermediaries And this could lead to significant progress in the field of artificial intelligence, cybernetics and even cultural practices,” explains Maxim Nyagolov, head of development at DigitMind Technologies.

    A chance for scammers

    There are also risks – for example, biological ones. The developers just have to ensure that the body does not reject the foreign element.
    In addition, the technology raises ethical questions. And not only. “It is possible that such opportunities will be available only to wealthy segments of the population, deepening social inequality,” Nagolov gives an example.

    There are fears that hackers could hack such a chip. At a minimum, to gain access to the data. The maximum is to gain control over the person.

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    However, the latter is unlikely, says MTS Vice President Evgeny Chereshnev. According to him, the device does not allow transmitting commands to a person from the outside – only receiving them from him. You can’t read minds either.
    “In addition, you can “profile” people without neurochips, which is much cheaper to do through smartphones and smart homes,” he notes.
    Biktimirov cites another risk factor: “For example “, attackers will send a message in the name of a person in a wheelchair, trying to deceive his relatives and get money. Since the patient usually communicates through instant messengers, loved ones may not notice the fake and believe the scammers.”
    Despite the potential threats, the technology seems doomed for development. Both government agencies and businesses are interested in this. In February, the White House listed neurotechnologies as critical. And the value of the Neuralink company on the market is already estimated at five billion dollars.

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