Neuralink: 1,500 animals would die during tests of Elon Musk’s startup

According to Reuters, Elon Musk will put such pressure on Neuralink employees that human errors will follow. The animals involved in the experiments will pay tens of thousands for bad operations.

Elon Musk talks about it as the future: his biotech startup Neuralink aims to connect the brain to machines. But now a federal investigation is underway in the United States. This is reported by Reuters, which also conducted an investigation that demonstrated an internal problem: serious animal abuse.

The figure released on December 5, 2022 is horrifying: 1,500 animals are said to have died in experiments since 2018. These creatures include sheep, monkeys and pigs, as well as rats and mice.

In 2020, Musk showed seeds with an interconnected implant. // Source: Neuralink

Stress, human error: There’s chaos at Neuralink, and animals are paying the price

To obtain this information and this figure, Reuters examined internal documents and consulted internal sources at Neuralink. to have firsthand knowledge of the company’s animal testing operations “. These sources, by the way, indicate that the number is approximate and cannot be more precise: Neuralink does not keep track of animals that die during experiments.

Either way, these sources told Reuters their concerns. Because in addition to animal abuse, the number of animals that die is greater than would normally be the case for such an experiment. The problem: Elon Musk’s desire to accelerate research so that Neuralink can produce better results.

Sources indicate that in order to meet the rush and tight deadline, human error would be involved – especially during animal surgeries. When faced with these errors, the results will not be reliable enough, which requires repeating the experiments, involving more animals and therefore more risks. Instead of analyzing the results of each experiment before moving on to the next, Neuralink would tend to chain operations without stopping to try to correct problems during procedures. There are two employees and one former employee attributed the errors to the unpreparedness of the experimental staff working in a pressure environment.”

One of the monkeys was operated with a Neuralink chip and caused the computer cursor to move.  // Source: Neuralink
One of the monkeys was operated with a Neuralink chip and caused the computer cursor to move. // Source: Neuralink

The pressure exerted by Musk is also rooted. Elon Musk would regularly use the metaphorical image of a bomb attached to his head to explain to his employees that they needed to be faster. On February 8, 2022, the entrepreneur sent a group message to his entire team at 6:37 a.m.: “ We can get people using their hands in everyday life and walking again! In general, we are not moving fast enough. It drives me crazy! “. He also threatened to endanger his teams” fall in the market from Neuralink in case of very slow results.

Many employees tried to raise the alarm internally to management about Musk’s demands, and many left as a result of this animal abuse.

Human tests for Neuralink in 2023?

Despite this internal chaos, Elon Musk made a highly publicized presentation in late November 2022. He showed new images of monkeys moving a computer cursor with their minds. And above all, he explained, he required official approval for human trials. This approval process could take six months, he said: so Neuralink’s first human guinea pigs will be approved by spring 2023.

Could a federal investigation prevent the move? It is difficult to say because the ethical boundary is not necessarily the legal boundary. Neuralink’s competitor Syncron won approval for human trials in 2021, and 80 sheep died in experiments before that. The University of Davis, which Neuralink has partnered with, also admitted to euthanizing six monkeys that experienced “complications” after the tests last year, but insisted it followed all legal guidelines.

As Reuters explains, US law is vague in this area: U.S. regulations do not limit how many animals companies can use for research, and they give scientists a lot of leeway in determining when and how to use animals in experiments. »

It is for this reason that it is difficult to know whether the federal investigation is related to this large-scale animal abuse. Because a few months ago, Neuralink successfully passed USDA (US Department of Agriculture) regulatory inspections for all of its facilities. In fact, it is entirely impossible that such collection of dead animals during testing would not prevent human trials from being allowed.

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