Elon Musk’s Neuralink accused of ‘extreme suffering’ in monkeys tested

While the company’s ex-co-founder Max Hodak jumped ship to create a competitor that could pull the rug out from under him, and although scientists continue to have serious doubts about the feasibility of his project brain implant, Elon Musk affirms: Neuralink will test its human-machine interface, a chip directly plugged into the brain, from 2022 on human beings.

However, we advise early adopters and chilled fans of the serial entrepreneur to wait a bit before registering on the waiting lists. According to an American animal welfare association, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), testing the thing on laboratory monkeys was responsible for “extreme suffering” for the poor guinea pigs.

In question, a subcontractor of Neuralink, the University of California at Davis, which has a laboratory specialized in testing on primates. According to Business Insider, the PCRM obtained 700 pages of documents relating to tests on twenty-three primates, including veterinary reports or necropsies, post-mortem medical examination.

The documents in question serve as the basis for a complaint filed in early February with the United States Department of Agriculture, the American body responsible for animal welfare issues. This refers to “extreme suffering resulting from inadequate animal treatment and the highly invasive nature of experimental brain implants during testing”.

Single implant

The daily monitoring of the animals, which seems to be faulty, is particularly called into question, as is the attention paid to their pain and their stress, and the intermittent presence of a veterinarian intended to manage anesthesia.

In the examples used by PCRM in its complaint, one of the monkeys tested by the UC Davis lab was missing fingers and toes, “possibly due to self-harm or other unspecified trauma”.

In short, the PCRM describes a veritable animal hell, which only seven primates ultimately survived before being transferred to the Neuralink facilities, which cut ties with the university in 2020. Seven survivors out of twenty-three animals during a test campaign not being supposed to involve the death of the guinea pigs: there is reason to be shocked and worried.

Stimulating brains to treat dementia, cure Parkinson’s, restore feeling to anyone with a broken spine and then, in the future, create a “super cognition”: you can’t make an omelette without torturing and destroying lives, the Neuralink teams might say to themselves.

In 2020, they already presented Gertrude, a sow with an implant to monitor her brain activity. A year later in 2021, the start-up presented a monkey playing Pong by thought thanks to one of its brain chips: before being endowed with this power which was perfectly useless to him, this one may have lived through hell.

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