Elon Musk Claims Human Trials For Neuralink Could Happen Much Sooner Than You Realize

You've probably seen Elon Musk in the news lately for his antics with Twitter, but that doesn't mean the billionaire's other projects have stopped. Musk, who is the CEO of Tesla, SpaceX, The Boring Company, and Neuralink in addition to Twitter, says he's expecting to see some big progress for his medical company soon (via USA Today).

If you're not familiar with all of Musk's companies, here's a primer: Neuralink, which was founded by Musk and seven other co-founders in 2016, is aiming to create a chip that can be placed inside people's brains. The chip aims to allow people to communicate with computers, as well as help restore function to people with disabilities (via Reuters). For instance, Musk has said he hopes to be able to restore sight to those who are congenitally blind.

It's an ambitious project, so you might think it'll take a few years before there's anything even remotely ready to be tested. However, animal trials are ongoing, and Musk recently announced that he expects human testing to start very soon as well.

When Musk says Neuralink testing will begin

In a recent update, Elon Musk shared that he plans for human testing to begin within the next six months — i.e., by mid-2023 (via Reuters). Why hasn't he started yet? Well, it's complicated. Musk can't just decide to test on humans when he thinks Neuralink is ready: First, the FDA has to give its approval, a process that can take a while and requires rigorous documentation to minimize safety risks. For his part, Musk says Neuralink has submitted most of the necessary paperwork to the FDA for them to consider approval (via USA Today). But according to The Washington Post, it's not clear if the FDA has started considering the request yet.

Previously, Musk shared some of the results of Neuralink's animal testing in a public presentation wherein he showed off a monkey with the Neuralink chip embedded in its brain, according to BBC. The footage appears to show the monkey playing a computer game using just thought, offering a potential window into what the humans' relationship with technology could look like in the future if Neuralink becomes a recreational tool.

The barriers Neuralink is facing

Despite Elon Musk's optimism, some people don't believe that Neuralink will actually see human testing in 2023. Neuralink has missed promised start dates for human testing twice before, according to Reuters. And, as The Washington Post pointed out, some of Musk's other companies, including SpaceX and Tesla, have also missed big release dates in the past. In fact, some people are concerned that Musk is "stretched too thin" with all his commitments, leaving him less time and energy to work on them, The Washington Post reported.

Other potential concerns include upset from animal rights activists over the Neuralink animal testing conditions and Musk's resistance towards any limitations on his speech, which one expert says might be a problem when obtaining FDA approval. According to CNN, Musk admitted that monkeys have died during Neuralink experiments but denied animal cruelty allegations. Still, it's certainly not impossible that Musk could meet his deadline. He definitely has the motivation to, since one top competitor, Synchron, got approval for human testing on its brain chip way back in 2021, per Reuters.