The first human implanted with a chip from Elon Musk’s computer-brain interface company Neuralink has recovered and can move a computer mouse with thought alone, the tech billionaire announced on Monday, a brief insight into the firm’s progress as it works towards restoring lost abilities like movement and sight and enhancing others like memory and intelligence.

KEY FACTS

The first human recipient of a Neuralink brain chip appears to have made a full recovery from the January procedure, Musk said in an X Spaces event hosted by journalist Katherine Brodsky late on Monday.

The surgery, aided by Neuralink’s surgical robot, marked a milestone for the company and its efforts to directly connect brains to computers after it received permission in September to recruit patients to test the device’s ability to help people with paralysis regain lost functions by controlling computers with thought.

“Progress is good,” the billionaire said, adding that the patient is suffering “no ill effects” the company is aware of.

The patient is able to “move the mouse around a screen just by thinking,” Musk said.

Neuralink is “trying to get as many button presses as possible from thinking,” Musk said, noting that multiple actions like holding a button while moving a mouse can be key to unlocking different actions on a computer.

Musk said Neuralink eventually wants to “have more than just 2 buttons” and is trying to make progress on that front, which he described as “looking very good” overall.

WHEN CAN I GET A NEURALINK BRAIN CHIP?

Neuralink is still in the early stages of testing and development and its hopes of widely deploying technology to “read” brains and control computers is still many years in the future. Neuralink’s first products will be aimed at restoring lost functions from people with paralysis or vision impairments, Musk has previously said. The billionaire said Neuralink’s first products will include “Telepathy,” which would allow users to control a phone or computer “just by thinking,” a feature this clinical trial is partly designed to test, as well as features that could restore sight to blind people but Musk says the technology aims to be used more widely to enhance memory and elevate intelligence. Regulators, as well as consumer demand, naturally set the bar for implanting a device into the brain of a healthy human much higher than that for treating patients with often debilitating conditions and such use will be many years or even decades in the future. Other neurotech companies are further ahead in testing and rolling out neural products to patients than Neuralink, though such firms are focused on treatment, not enhancement.

TANGENT

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently expressed skepticism of brain implants and neural interface technology as it currently stands. Zuckerberg, a billionaire who cofounded Facebook, said he considers neural interface “one of the wilder things that we’re working on.” He stressed Meta is not yet working on brain implants, but might consider it. “Maybe in the future someone will do that, but I wouldn’t want to use Version 1 of that,” he said. “I think you might want to wait until that one’s pretty mature. Let’s wait until I don’t need to upgrade that thing every year.”

FORBES VALUATION

We estimate Musk to be worth $205.2 billion. He is the world’s second richest person, lagging French luxury goods magnate Bernard Arnault and leading Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, respectively worth $223.2 billion and $190.7 billion.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Musk controversially acquired Twitter in 2022 and soon rebranded it as X. He has implemented numerous changes, notably rolling back verification and content moderation policies, that have sparked widespread criticism and provoked skepticism among advertisers, many of whom have left the platform. He openly aspires to transform X into an “everything app” in the vein of China’s ubiquitous WeChat and believes this will become a trillion dollar venture. Musk, when asked about the platform’s future in the X Spaces event, said he expects the platform will launch new features over the coming year, including group video chats, a “wide range of financial services,” more longform content and video, improved search functions and deploying AI to boost recommendations for what users see.

FURTHER READING

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