Elon Musk announced on Wednesday during a presentation for his Neuralink brain chips that human trials could begin in as little as six months. But the news isn’t sitting well with everyone given that numerous monkeys who had the chips implanted became ill and were euthanized during testing.
The chips, which are designed to be implanted into the human brain, seek to enable wireless communication between people and computers. The technology could theoretically be used to aid disabled individuals in communication and possibly physical movement.
During Musk’s so-called “show and tell” event, a monkey with an implanted chip was shown controlling a cursor on a computer with its mind.
The demo was similar to one held by Neuralink last year in which a monkey was seen playing pong with its mind as well.
Yet Musk’s much-anticipated event has been overshadowed by reports from earlier this year accusing Neuralink of “mutilating and killing monkeys” during its tests. A website launched by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) warned that the company’s experiments at the University of California, Davis, “resulted in chronic infections, seizures, paralysis, internal bleeding, and declining psychological health.”
The allegations came after the PCRM filed a lawsuit against the university that enabled them to obtain lab notes from the experiments. In one noted incident, a monkey was seen “repeatedly vomiting, gasping, retching and had very little interaction with environment/observers” two days after having the brain implant installed.
In another incident, a monkey was found missing some of its fingers and toes “possibly from self-mutilation or some other unspecified trauma.”
Several of the monkeys were ultimately euthanized due to injuries and infections stemming from the implantation procedure. The PCRM is also attempting to get the university to release hundreds of photos taken during the experiments.
Neuralink responded to the controversy in February by stating that it approached its work with animals in the “most humane and ethical way possible.”
Users across social media, however, were quick to remind Musk of the monkey controversy following Wednesday’s event.
“The test monkeys died horrible deaths and the man behind it appears unhinged so of course it’s ready for human trials,” one user wrote.
It is now up to the Food and Drug Administration to decide whether the technology is ready for human clinical trials.
A number of people said the Neuralink news about human testing gave Musk fanboys an opportunity to prove themselves.
However, not all of the criticisms against Neuralink this week were legitimate.
A fake screenshot of a USA Today article claiming that 3,000 monkeys died during testing, representing a 98% fatality rate, also circulated online despite being untrue.