While Tesla CEO Elon Musk believes that his brain-implant startup, Neuralink is the future of human interactions with technology, many experts aren't so convinced and expresses their concern.
Researchers and scientists are worried about the Elon Musk's oversight, the potential impact on trial participants, and whether society has meaningfully grappled with the stakes of fusing Big Tech with human brains, report The Daily Beast.
Last week, news broke that Neuralink is hiring a clinical trial director to help manage its first cohort of human patients.
The five-year-old startup's initial aim is to help alleviate certain disabilities, like enabling paralyzed people to control their computers and mobile devices through brain activity. Musk has signaled far larger ambitions down the road, however. He previously outlined his vision to help humans achieve "symbiosis" with artificial intelligence to avoid being "left behind" by machines.
"I don't think there is sufficient public discourse on what the big picture implications of this kind of technology becoming available [are]," said Dr. Karola Kreitmair, assistant professor of medical history and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
"I worry that there's this uncomfortable marriage between a company that is for-profit," she added.
Indeed, the ethics surrounding technology such as the Neuralink is uncharted territory. As such, many are concerned about how these products — ostensibly meant to help those with disabilities — can ultimately be exploited for profit.
"If the ultimate goal is to use the acquired brain data for other devices, or use these devices for other things — say, to drive cars, to drive Teslas — then there might be a much, much bigger market," Dr. L. Syd Johnson, associate professor at the Center for Bioethics and Humanities at SUNY Upstate Medical University, told the Daily Beast.
"But then all those human research subjects — people with genuine needs — are being exploited and used in risky research for someone else's commercial gain," she continued.
Kreitmair echoed the sentiment. While she believes that the technology could be "life-changing" for paralyzed people, she told the Daily Beast that its potential for consumer uses "raises such a slew of ethical concerns."
Some experts are also worried that Musk is nothing but a carnival barker who'll say anything and stop at nothing to make a buck — which, well, fair. He's been known to make lofty promises before only to grossly underdeliver before. Who's to say Neuralink won't be the same?
"With these companies and owners of companies, they're kind of showmen," Dr. Laura Cabrera, a neuroethics researcher at Penn State, told the Beast. "They'll make these hyperbolic claims, and I think that's dangerous, because I think people sometimes believe it blindly."
She later added, "I'm always cautious about what [Elon Musk] says."
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