Company News

Elon Musk Says Second Neuralink Brain Implant About a Week Away

The Neuralink website on a laptop arranged in New York, US, on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024. Elon Musk said that the first human patient has received a brain implant from his startup Neuralink Corp., a significant step forward for the company that aims to one day let humans control computers with their minds. (Gabby Jones/Bloomberg)

(Bloomberg) -- Brain-computer startup Neuralink Corp. aims to implant its device into a second human patient in a week or so, founder Elon Musk said during a video update Wednesday, and hopes to have devices in patients numbering “in the high single digits” by the end of the year.

In a wide-ranging discussion broadcast on Musk’s social platform X, the billionaire and several key Neuralink staffers described the current device’s capabilities and future possibilities, such as repairing paralysis and memory loss. They also outlined steps the team would take in future surgeries to avoid some setbacks that occurred in the wake of the first implantation, on Arizona man Noland Arbaugh.

The long-term goal “is to mitigate the longer civilizational risk of AI,” or artificial intelligence, Musk said. Neuralink can help with that by creating “a closer symbiosis between human intelligence and digital intelligence.” The idea, Musk said, “is to give people super powers.” 

In the short term, the company aims to help patients with brain injury and spinal injuries by enabling them to control phones and computers with their minds. It does that by implanting into the skull a device that it calls Telepathy, a round disk with electrode threads attached to it that insert into the brain tissue.

In upcoming surgeries, Neuralink will make some changes to try to mitigate the issue of its electrode threads retracting from brain tissue, Musk said. Its proposed fixes include eliminating an air pocket, a normal part of brain surgery, that might have contributed to retracting threads in the first surgery. The company will aim to insert the threads more accurately on the folds of the brain, and put the implant flush with the contour of the skull.

In the video, the team also discussed future generations of the device. Musk said it should be possible for patients with older models to upgrade to newer ones. “You want the iPhone 15,” he said. “Not the iPhone 1.”

At the end of the presentation, Musk emphasized the good care Neuralink takes of the animals it uses for research. 

“We really do everything we can to maximize the welfare of the animals,” he said. The startup has come under fire in the past for the way it treats animals in the laboratory.

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.