Tipping Point Quick Hits (9.28.23)
Neuralink recruits, Saudi Arabia's solution, and Russia accuses the U.S.
Neuralink is Now Recruiting for a Clinical Trial
Earlier this year, I wrote that Elon Musk’s brain-computer interface company Neuralink had received FDA approval to start brain tests in human subjects.
Neuralink announced last week that it was actively recruiting those subjects. It has partnered with a hospital to begin finding subjects for its first-in-human clinical trial, which the company is calling the PRIME Study (which it says is short for Precise Robotically Implanted Brain-Computer Interface).
The study will evaluate the safety of its implant, known as N1, and a surgical robot known as R1. It seeks to enable people with paralysis to “control external devices with their thoughts.”
During the study, the R1 Robot will be used to surgically place the N1 Implant’s ultra-fine and flexible threads in a region of the brain that controls movement intention. Once in place, the N1 Implant is cosmetically invisible and is intended to record and transmit brain signals wirelessly to an app that decodes movement intention. The initial goal of our BCI is to grant people the ability to control a computer cursor or keyboard using their thoughts alone.
Neuralink says this study “represents an important step in our mission to create a generalized brain interface to restore autonomy to those with unmet medical needs,” like cervical spinal cord injuries or debilitating diseases like ALS. Previously the company had only tested its products on monkeys.
The company did not specify where the study would take place or which hospital it had partnered with. This article includes further details:
Neuralink has created a patient registry for people who are interested in learning whether they may qualify for the study. In a brochure on its website, Neuralink says it is looking for participants who have quadriplegia, or paralysis in all four limbs, due to cervical spinal cord injury or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and are at least 22 years old. For those chosen to participate, the study will involve a combination of nine at-home and in-person clinic visits over 18 months. Neuralink anticipates the study will take six years to complete.
Neuralink’s coin-sized implant is not visible when implanted, according to the company. It records neural activity using 1,024 electrodes, distributed across 64 threads, each thinner than a human hair.
During the procedure, the R1 robot will surgically place the implant into the brain. The implant will then begin recording and transmitting brain signals to an external app that decodes the signals.
Neuralink is not the only company working in this space.
Synchron is a competitor that threads an implant through the jugular vein to “sit against” the brain, allowing paralyzed patients to email or perform online banking.
Science Corp., founded by former Neuralink employees, is developing a prosthesis to provide “artificial vision” for blind people.
Precision Neuroscience, also founded by former Musk associates, is working on a device to read and record brain activity.
Motif Neurotech is working on a brain implant to treat depression.
We are moving closer and closer to the Singularity, which I wrote about in my book Tipping Point. That’s the complete merger of humanity with technology—a hybrid race in which human brains are augmented by nanobots, and our thoughts will be a blend of biological and non-biological thinking.
In other words, those who can afford it will become superintelligent. What will happen when the wealthiest humans become a super-race?
I have said before that I always appreciate efforts to help humans overcome neurological diseases, paralysis and other challenges. Medical technology can be amazing. But when it gets to the point where it is transforming the brain—and possibly transforming the soul—then I have some major concerns.
God detested the hybrid race of giants in Genesis, and He destroyed them in the Flood. How will He respond when we are pursuing the same thing today?
Saudi Arabia and the Two-State Solution
As we discussed in yesterday’s Tipping Point Show, I’ve been paying close attention to the past few weeks of speculation about Saudi Arabia potentially joining the Abraham Accords. This week, one Saudi leader indicated that a “two-state solution” would be necessary for this to happen. Nayef al-Sudairi, Saudi Arabia’s first ambassador to the Palestinian Authority, implied that the establishment of a Palestinian state—with a capital in East Jerusalem—would be central to any future deal with Israel.
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