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The student news site of California State University - Los Angeles

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Neuralink: Is getting your brain chipped a good idea?

Students discuss the potential of Elon Musk’s Neuralink
Neuralink+recently+received+FDA+approval+to+run+human+testing+on+their+brain+computer+implants.
Courtesy of iStock
Neuralink recently received FDA approval to run human testing on their brain computer implants.

Imagine what you could do if you could control your computer or your phone not with your fingers or voice but with your thoughts. With the installation of a chip implanted in your brain, you can control what emotions you feel, what you can perceive from all five senses, and communicate your thoughts perfectly. Imagine the possibilities of such a technology and the dangers that come with it.

 It sounds nonsensical with today’s current levels of technology, but the foundations of such a technology might be seen within this decade. The future is looking more and more cyberpunk with the advent of Neuralink implants.

Last month, Elon Musk’s Neuralink company received approval from the FDA to start human trials, with the goal that their first test subject would eventually be able to control a computer mouse. Neuralink aims to make brain computer interface implants (BCIs) a reality, with plans on furthering the advancement of BCIs.

Realistically, today’s BCIs aren’t even as advanced as they are in your favorite cyberpunk movie, (like in “Upgrade,” a 2018 action movie about an quadriplegic man with an super advanced AI chip installed in his head, which allows him to seek revenge) but it’s the potential of these devices that can be insane. This cutting edge technology could allow users to perform a variety of functions in the future, such as allowing users to control cybernetic limbs, use a phone or computers with a thought, or communicate with other brain-chipped individuals telepathically. 

Musk’s plans for this developing technology are big, as the theoretical applications of a brain chip can be further expanded on to do so much more. 

Andres Altamirano, a 4th year film major, thinks that the BCIs could be the next big thing.

“I think if we had brain chips, we wouldn’t need computers anymore because at that point, we’d basically be Google,” Altamirano said.

Emiliano Aguiar, a 4th year civil engineer major, isn’t as enthused about the idea of having chips in our heads, saying, “It’s not something I want personally. Kind of invasive, especially if a company is able to go through it.” 

Carlos Marroquin, a 4th year Civil Engineer major, takes the stance that implanting computer chips on human beings is ethically wrong. “It’s in your brain, so that means there’s a risk of invasion of privacy,” said Marroquin. Marroquin also believes that this technology would also make people too complacent and reliant on the brain chip.  “People would actually depend on that, not wanting to learn skills because it’d be accessible with the Neuralink computer connected to your brain.”

Neuralink’s BCI chips are not the first BCIs to be created, with the first BCIs being developed in the mid 1990s. Neuralink’s brain chips are marketed by Musk to be especially intuitive, unintrusive and safe.

But recently, Neuralink and Musk have come under fire for its controversial animal testing phase. There are claims of animal abuse based on some of the monkeys being implanted with Neuralink chips. The issues that have been reported to have been exhibited by the affected monkeys included chronic pain, bloody diarrhea, partial paralysis, self mutilation and death.

The scrutiny under Neuralink’s animal trials and the efficacy of their product puts a lot of doubt, not just on the safety of the implant, but also on its ethics.

“I’m not surprised, because it’s a [brain chip implant], something new to the human body and obviously the human body is going to remove anything that is new to the body,” said Marroquin.

Aguiar’s apprehension with the idea of BCI’s comes from the animal trials. He reasons that if the animals who underwent the procedures suffered chronic pain and partial paralysis from getting the chip implanted, it’s too risky for himself.

“I hear that we don’t know too much about the brain,” Aguiar said. “A brain is like a computer in itself.”

Altamirano believes that there will always be a way for others to control people with implanted brain chips, which tanked his enthusiasm for the Neuralink Project.

“To me, that’s pretty scary. Thinking about the idea that our emotions and thoughts will be affected and controlled,” said Altamirano. 

Overall, Marroquin doesn’t trust that Neuralink could pull it off.. He recommends that other people shouldn’t jump to adopt BCI anytime soon. “Some might say it’s a good idea, because it’s more accessible. And as humans we like everything the easy way, but at the same time, would it be a good idea?” 

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About the Contributor
Brian Lai, Community News Digital Editor & Distribution Manager
Brian Lai is an English major, and an UT reporter that writes mostly about Calstate LA’s campus. He covers campus events, issues and highlights, and other related topics. 
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